Zebulon Baird Vance and The Scattered Nation: Freemasonry, Christian Zionism and Philosemitism in a 19th century context
In the years following the Civil War former North Carolina Governor, Zebulon Baird Vance authored a speech that endeared him to generations of Jewish people, especially those in North Carolina. Scattered Nation was a plea that respect be given to the Jews and an iteration of reasons such respect was deserved. This lecture became a well-known part of his repertoire and brought Vance accolades during and after his life from Jewish communities all over the US. Scattered Nation is a distinctly philosemitic work that demonstrates familiarity, if not complete agreement, with a stream of thought known as Christian Zionism. It also bears the marks of a brand of philosemitism that was evident in the Masonic Lodge of this era. This paper will demonstrate that Scattered Nation is the result not only of Vance’s personal passion for justice, but also of the influence played upon him by individuals and organizations with which he interacted. Vance’s philosemitism can be seen as the result of the ideological influences of the Masonic Lodge, the Christian Zionism of the Rev. Arnold DeWelles Miller—pastor of Charlotte’s First Presbyterian Church—as well as the personal influence of Vance’s friendships with various Jewish people.
Despite its unique placement in the lexicon of Southern speeches, few historians have studied Scattered Nation. Though inevitably mentioned in biographies of Vance and passingly referenced in other works relating to Jews in the South or Southern political leaders of this period, Scattered Nation has not received particular attention. The seminal work relating to Scattered Nation is the 1941 article in the Journal of Southern History by Selig Adler. Adler’s conclusion was that Scattered Nation was the result of Vance’s biblical interest combined with his natural humanitarianism. Adler however, was not primarily concerned with the speech itself, but how it represented the “salient facts of Vance’s career and character [that explain the] unusual devotion and tribute” shown him by the people of North Carolina.1 Adler was interested in what made Vance unique and Scattered Nation was a good illustration of his character. Adler also felt Vance’s friendships with Jewish merchant Samuel Wittkowsky and the Presbyterian minister Arnold DeWelles Miller were formative on his decision to write the speech. Despite identifying Wittkowsky and Miller as influences on Vance, Adler did not explain the substance of such influence. Finally, Adler makes a few short comments placing Scattered Nation within an overall reaction against anti-Semitism, comparing it to works such as James Patton’s Our Israelitish Brethren that appeared during this period.2
Other writers, such as Leonard Dinnerstein in Antisemitism in America dealt with Scattered Nation similarly, framing it as an illustration of Vance’s personality or character. In particular, Dinnerstein was interested in the concern Vance showed toward the rising anti-Semitism of the period:
Amazingly, it was a Christian, Zebulon Vance, the former Governor of North Carolina, who brought attention to southern antisemitism. [… ] Inspired by what he believed to be unjustified bigotry [… ] Vance prepared a talk defending “the persecuted and despised Jew.” Then, beginning with a speech in Baltimore in February 1874, he embarked on a fifteen-year crusade to make others more tolerant of Jews.3
Accenting Vance’s belief that anti-Semitism was simply unjustified bigotry, Dinnerstein was more correct then he realized when he labeled Scattered Nation and its repeated delivery a “crusade.” Comments within the speech as well as trends within the broader society would indicate that Vance saw the delivery of Scattered Nation as his Christian duty. Vance tells his audience, were they to “Strike out all of Judaism from the Christian church” they would leave nothing “but an unmeaning superstition.”4 This and other such comments seem barbed for Christians who disagreed with his viewpoint.
In contrast to Dinnerstein, the assessment of Louise A. Mayo in The Ambivalent Image: Nineteenth Century America’s Perception of the Jew was that Vance hoped for the eventual total assimilation of the Jewish people. By placing Vance in the category of “sympathetic observer,” and maintaining that total assimilation was the goal of many such observers Mayo over-reaches the scope of Vance’s comments.5 It is hard to see a great difference between the future Vance envisions, where “they [the Jews] will become as other men, and taking their harps down from the willows, no longer . . . [refuse] to sing the songs of Zion because they are captives in a strange land,” and the future Reform Judaism actively sought.6 In Scattered Nation Vance gives voice to the hope that Christian prejudice will dissolve and with it the need for Jewish sectarianism. If this happens Vance foresees that little will be left to form a separate Jewish identity, “The hammer of persecution having ceased […] it will cease to consolidate and harden, and the main strength of their exclusion and preservation will have been lost.”7 Despite this, Vance makes no reference to a conversion or total assimilation of the Jewish people. Indeed Mayo even points out that Vance’s focus is on the political and civic realm.8 Additionally, Vance specifically condemns religious bigotry in his speech, stating that the persecution of the Jewish people “serves to show that the wrath of a religious bigot is more fearful and ingenious than the cruelest of tortures hatched in the councils of hell.”9 Vance’s acknowledgment that conversion and cultural assimilation would occur in the absence of persecution only places him within a multitude of observers, Jew and non-Jew, who have seen persecution as the cement of Jewish identity.10 It is clear that Scattered Nation is unconcerned with evangelizing or converting Jews, rather Vance sought the conversion of Christians to a greater acceptance of Jewish people. To this end, Scattered Nation continually evokes the values prized by Americans and presents them as characteristic to the Jewish people.
The first and most obvious explanation for the philosemitism exhibited in Scattered Nation is, of course, location. Southerners were—and are—particularly open to philosemitic outlooks due to the influence of the dominant brands of Protestantism in the region. This heritage of philosemitism is one inextricably bound to the history of English speaking Protestantism. As a whole, Protestantism tends toward the literal interpretation of scripture, a trend that was challenged only with the advent of the historical-critical method of Biblical interpretation in the nineteenth century and its subsequent embrace by the mainline denominations. Seen in this light modern evangelical support for the State of Israel is not surprising, nor is the statement made by one researcher, that “[i]f only for reasons of self-interest, Jews would do well to eliminate their own prejudice, where it exists, against ‘wool-hats,’ ‘red necks,’ and ‘yokels.’ The rural peoples of the South hark back to the agrarian civilization of the original Thirteen Colonies, and they are living heirs of the old American tradition of philosemitism.”11 The “old American tradition of philosemitism” to which the author refers is English in origin and related to the theology of Restorationism, a tradition most often known today under the umbrella phrase Christian Zionism.12
One illustration of early Restorationist thought and the importance of the movement in the history of the English-speaking world is a speech given by Oliver Cromwell before the barebones parliament or Nominated Assembly in 1653—modeled after the Sanhedrin—where he states:
Indeed I do think something is at the door: we are at the threshold, you are at the edge of the promises and prophesies … and it may be as some think, God will bring the Jews home to their station from the isles of the sea, and answer their expectations from the depths of the sea.”13
In Britain the theology of restoration eventually led to an increasing pressure for a foreign policy that supported the formation of a Jewish State in Palestine.14 Originally, this state was to have been a sort of Middle Eastern Belgium under the protection of Britain and Germany. This idea fell through however with Germany’s pursuit of militarist and anti-English policies.15
As Anglican Restorationists put pressure upon the British, Christian Zionists in the United States were increasingly influential during the latter half of the nineteenth century. The degree of Christian Zionism within evangelical strands of English-speaking Protestantism has shown that the characterization of evangelicals and fundamentalists in particular as naturally anti-Semitic is “biased and totally inaccurate.”16 This theology dominated the region and Vance would be exposed to one of its staunchest supporters during his years in Charlotte during which time he wrote Scattered Nation.
Born in Buncombe County on May 13, 1830 Vance received his university education at the University of North Carolina thanks to the assistance of his mother’s friend, university president and former North Carolina governor David L. Swain. Upon attaining his law license from the North Carolina Supreme Court, Vance returned to Western North Carolina where he began his practice.
In 1853 Vance took two actions that were to be of great importance in the form Scattered Nation was to take. In February of 1853 Vance petitioned for admittance to Mt. Hermon Masonic Lodge in Asheville, which he gained, becoming an Entered Apprentice on the same date. Vance received both the second (Fellow Craft) and the third (Master Mason) degrees on June 20th 1853.17 On August 3, 1853, Vance married his first wife, Harriet Newell Espy who was to be formative in his decision later in life to associate with the Presbyterian Church and consequently, his association with Rev. Miller.18 Later that same year he was to achieve his first elected office, that of county solicitor.
Vance had many possible motivations for joining the Masonic lodge. One benefit was that membership helped in the establishment of a network for the aspiring politician, the association between Masonry and politics in North Carolina being a long-standing one. Many North Carolina Governors—at least twenty between the revolution and Vance’s day—were Masons:
The links between Masonry and North Carolina politics were close. The fraternity might have played only a minor role in partisan activities, but it reinforced post-Revolutionary political structures in fundamental ways. The fraternity first created networks that encouraged communication and co-operation between politically active men. Just as important, Masonry helped constitute an elite that could plausibly claim to be enlightened and republican—and could address the sometimes contradictory cultural and practical demands placed upon them.19
In addition to, and probably over-shadowing political reasons, there were personal motivations behind Vance’s decision. Zeb’s older brother Robert Brank Vance was also a member of the Lodge and was twice Grand Master of the state, in 1868 and 69.20 In addition to Robert, another prominent Mason, David L. Swain, had a formative influence on Zeb’s life. Had Swain not agreed to help Zeb attend Chapel Hill Vance’s life may have turned out completely different. Swain and Vance were to become good friends during his stay at Chapel Hill and continued their friendship through the years.21
Zeb proved his enthusiasm for freemasonry from the beginning, being chosen, to help supervise the celebration of St. John’s day on June 20th 1853, the same day he had been conferred the degree of Master Mason in “due and ancient form.”22 Vance was to remain active in the Lodge throughout his life and the friends and acquaintances he made there were to remain important to him.23 Vance is recorded as a regular attendant at lodge meetings from 1855-58, in 1859 he was a recorded member of Mt. Hermon as well as in 1864, 1866 and 68. In December of 1854 Vance represented Mt. Hermon Lodge # 118 at the proceedings of the Grand Lodge of North Carolina. Vance even remained active in masonry during the Civil War, even having a Confederate Military Lodge named in his honor in 1864.24
Vance’s political ambitions could not have escaped the influence of his family’s history in the politics of the region, according to Frontis Johnson “[h]is immediate ancestors had served thirteen terms in the North Carolina House of Commons and six terms in the North Carolina Senate.”25 Vance was elected to the state legislature in 1854 at the age of 24 and to Congress in 1858.26 A well-known Unionist who stood against secession until Lincoln called for troops to put down the secessionists, Vance told the tale that he was out ardently “canvassing for the Union with all [. . . his] strength [… ] when the telegraphic news was announced of the firing on Sumter.” Rather than continue to speak for the Union, Vance spoke out sadly and “called upon the assembled multitude to volunteer, not to fight against but for South Carolina.”27
After the war Vance was imprisoned for a time, as was the case with most former Confederate Statesmen. It was at the end of the Civil war that Vance struck up friendships with the two men who were most influential in his decision to write Scattered Nation. The first of these was Samuel Wittkowsky, the other Presbyterian minister Rev. Arnold DeWelles Miller, Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Charlotte. Although it seems likely that it was Miller and not Wittkowsky who had the most overt influence upon Vance’s Scattered Nation, Wittkowsky’s influence may have been underestimated by Adler because he did not know about Vance and Wittkowsky’s simultaneous Masonic membership.
As stated earlier, this was not a kind period to Jews who wanted to honor their ethnicity or religion and fear of reprisal—whether physical or economic—may explain why Wittkowsky has been remembered as an assimilationist who had little interest in glorifying or accentuating his Jewish heritage. Miller on the other hand enjoyed the ability to pursue an interest in the Hebrews without fear of repercussion. Once a year in fact, he would invite the Jewish residents of Charlotte to his church and give a sermon on the Old Testament.
Just as Miller was safe from harm and allowed to express his views, so too did Vance have the luxury of being vocal. Yet the question remains, what influenced Vance to speak out? The answer to that question lies not only in Vance’s friendships, but also in the changes taking place in society. The late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries saw many changes that affected the nature of social institutions and government. The American and later revolutions in new world and old brought enlightenment ideals to their fruition in the establishment of new Republics; during this period the Masonic Lodge became a vehicle through which revolutionary ideals were spread. Illustrating this close connection, Margaret Jacob titled her 1991 book on Freemasonry in eighteenth Century Europe, Living the Enlightenment.
Historians have long recognized how important the existence of “free space,”—that is a gathering place unassociated with either Church or State—is to the spread of ideas. Until recently, the study of such space was limited in scope, but more historians have begun studying the influence of civic spaces and voluntary associations in the exchange of ideas. One such space is the Masonic Lodge; while long associated with the Enlightenment, scrutiny of the interplay between the fraternity and certain ideas is a recent phenomenon.28
Of particular importance and interest is the strong association between the Masonic Lodge and the pursuit of Jewish civic rights. Although the connections between Jews and Freemasonry have been the subject of numerous publications, these have largely been written either by anti-Jewish or anti-Masonic propagandists. It is only within the last thirty years that historians have begun looking more closely at these connections.29
In 1765 a Masonic lodge was established in Philadelphia; later known as the Philadelphia Lodge of Perfection, it was formative in the push for Jewish civic rights.30 The importance of the Philadelphia Lodge of Perfection is twofold; first, it helps to highlight a trend in specific versions of European and American Masonry that pushed for civic rights for Jews. Secondly, it shows that the Masonic Lodge, as any other social institution, undergoes evolution and change. Masonry is a civic organization and is not divorced from the feelings and sentiments of its members. The Freemasonry that dominated in the American colonies was one catering to the colonial elite. In the first half of the eighteenth century what later became known as “modern” Masonry “brought together many of the province’s most prominent men in a society that proclaimed their gentility, cultivation, and high social standing [.]” This began to change with the importation of a feud that had been brewing in England into American masonry. This feud revolved around issues related to ritual and pitted an elitist form of Masonry against a form that styled itself “Ancient,” hence the anachronistic designation of the “moderns.” While the Moderns were elite, the Ancients opened their membership to people of every social standing. By 1757 an ancient Lodge had been established in Philadelphia; by 1790 the entirety of Philadelphia Masonry was under their jurisdiction. So distinct was the break between the ancients and the moderns that Benjamin Franklin, a former Grand Master of the Lodge in Pennsylvania, was no longer recognized by the Ancients as a mason, his death even being ignored by the more popular and adaptable body.31
At the same time this conflict was occurring in America, new priorities were emerging in European Masonry. In 1781 Joseph issued a patent permitting the formation of Masonic Lodges within his Empire. As freemasonry grew in Austria, Vienna became a center of the fraternity; through the work of groups such as True Harmony Lodge—organized in March of 1781—Masonry began “recruiting Josephinian enlighteners to administrative offices in the grand lodge and to leadership positions in Viennese local lodges.”32 These lodges actively campaigned for Jewish civic rights despite the fact that most closed their membership to them. In England and across the Atlantic, the Lodges were not just campaigning for Jewish civic rights; they were initiating Jews into their lodges. As Ancient freemasonry was gaining ground, Jews who had been pushed out of their homes by the British fled to Philadelphia and established their own Lodge, Philadelphia Lodge of Perfection.33 There is insufficient space to examine each connection between the European enlightenment thought and these new Lodges, but these connections resulted in a different form of Freemasonry emerging after the revolution. This form of Masonry is referred to as Republican Masonry, (1790-1826) and which became so important to the civic religion and myth-building of the early US.
Republican masonry is the incarnation of the fraternity most familiar to people in the United States, it is this form that was practiced during the formative years of the Republic and which the members argued represented and spread the best of American ideals. “Masons thus did more than lay the Republic’s physical cornerstones; they also helped form the symbolic foundations of what the Great Seal called ‘the new order for the ages.’”34
The ideals of republican masonry did not disappear and continued to have great impact upon the members of the fraternity. Masonry in the nineteenth century entered into another phase of development classified by Stephen Bullock in Revolutionary Brotherhood as Religious Masonry. During this period changing religious values opened the way for an alliance between Masonry and the churches, an alliance that was cemented by developments within Masonry. Even as greater numbers of American Christians adapted the values represented in Masonry, the fraternity left its a-religious stance in favor of embracing Christianity:
Public addresses and secret rituals proclaimed Masonic piety. Lodges increasing encouraged religious activities. The result was a dramatic reorientation. Rather than universal love, brothers now began to argue that religion formed the fraternity’s “grand cornerstone.”35
It was into a version of Masonry that was increasingly religious yet still felt the reverberations of revolutionary ideals that Vance placed himself and it was within the Lodge that Vance was exposed to a philosemitic outlook. The years between 1850 and 1900 also saw a general increase in the number of Americans joining voluntary associations, indicating such groups would maintain a high level of influence in the society.36
The religious re-centering that occurred within the Masonic Lodge echoed the religious revivals of the 1830’s, which brought greater religiosity to the general society. During this same period German Jewish immigrants became more involved in voluntary associations such as the Masonic Lodge.37 There were several side effects of the religious shift in society during this period. The rise of the Anti-Masonic party, especially in the Northeastern portion of the United States was matched by the religious change within the Masonry itself. In the general society the increased religious fervor also led to increased anti-Semitism while in the Masonic Lodge there was a different effect.
A new Christianity based religiosity within the Lodge led to more association between religion and the Lodge. It became common during this period for Masonic ceremonies to be employed in the placement of cornerstones, not just for civic buildings, but churches as well. These new feelings coupled with the interest in antiquities especially those of Jewish origin-that prevailed in the lodge, led to an increase in the already extant philosemitism of the Masonic Lodges in the English speaking world. To quote the comment of William and Hilary Rubinstein about the philosemitism of the Duke of Sussex in the early nineteenth century in relation to Vance:
With its Judaic concepts and imagery, Freemasonry might have stimulated his philosemitism as well as that of others; certainly in English-speaking lands it welcomed Jews into its ranks, thereby aiding their integration into society.38
There are many examples of Judaic concepts and imagery in Masonic writings. One prominent and easily attainable example is Albert Pike’s Morals and Dogma. Not a governing document of freemasonry, Morals and Dogma is related directly only to the Southern Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite, an appendant order of the Masonic Lodge, of which Pike was head in the late nineteenth century. The book is primarily a collection of Pike’s personal musings about and interpretation of, Masonic symbols, as such it contains many examples of Masonic imagery, which often relates to Judaism. Because of the subject matter and the time period in which it was written Morals and Dogma is more than a little confusing, however, our purpose is not to understand the concepts or the eccentricities of Pike, only to recognize the prevalence of Judaic imagery within Masonry. A continued positive exposure to such cultural elements inevitably leads to respect and admiration for that culture. The most obvious and far-reaching example of Jewish imagery within Masonry is in the importance of the Temple of Solomon. In his explanation of the name of one of the two columns that are present in every Lodge room—columns representative of columns in Solomon’s temple—Pike comments that:
The word Jachin, in Hebrew, is יכין. It was probably pronounced Ya-kayan, and meant, as a verbal noun, He that strengthens; and thence, firm, stable, upright.39
A few pages later, Pike gives considerable attention to the importance of the Hebrew letter Yod. The interest illustrated by Pike is far from unique among Masons and members of other groups in this time; Morals and Dogma is replete with such examples. This interest in antiquities, particularly in things Jewish, when combined with the earlier enlightened ideals, led to a philosemitic air within Masonry and to an appreciation and reverence for the Jewish people. While earlier masons had allowed Jews to join the Lodges based upon an enlightenment ideal of equality, these religious masons began to see the Jewish people as the fountainhead of their own Christian religion and even their civic ideals, and as such, deserving of greater reverence.
In the years following the War Vance often responded to newspaper articles that he felt were dishonest or insulted his character. One such response was regarding the claim of General Hugh Kilpatrick that he had humiliated Vance by making him ride on the back of a mule through North Carolina. Vance responded with a letter to the New York World that relates the situation in which he and Wittkowsky first met:
I will not do [Kilpatrick] the justice to say that he knew that was a lie when he uttered it … I was arrested on May 13″‘ by a detachment of 300 cavalry, under Major Porter of Harrisburg, from whom I received nothing but kindness and courtesy. I came by buggy to Salisbury, where we took the cars [railroad]…. I saw no mule on the trip, yet I thought I saw an ass at the general’s headquarters; this impression has since been confirmed.
Samuel Wittkowsky, then a resident of Statesville offered the buggy ride mentioned by Vance. Wittkowsky “was destined to become one of the most enterprising and successful men in the state and was probably the most intimate of Vance’s Jewish friends.”40 Later in his life Wittkowsky often related the following tale regarding the journey to Salisbury:
[ … ] Vance turned to him, wiped tears from his cheeks, and said: “This will not do. I must be a man, but I am not so much concerned as to what may be in store for me, but my poor wife and little children-they have not a cent of money-and my poor State-what indignity may be in store for her?41
Vance and Wittkowsky were to become great friends, both settling in Charlotte after the war. During their years in Charlotte, they became pillars of the community. Vance, already well known from his role as War Governor and earlier as a Congressman, was a well-known attorney, while Wittkowsky was a successful businessman. In addition to organizing one of the first savings and loans in the state he also served as the first elected head of the Charlotte Chamber of commerce.42 Wittkowsky was also one of the founding members of the Charlotte Country club, an organization that has been known as “exclusive,” and “restricted.”43 Wittkowsky’s discomfort with his heritage was evident, going so far as to respond to a request to help build a synagogue with the comment that he would “gladly contribute to a campaign not to build a synagogue.”44 It is possible that he eventually converted to Christianity; his children Anglicized their name to Whitson (or Wittson) and none of the family was buried in the city’s Hebrew Cemetery.45 Despite this apparent desire to jettison his Jewish identity, Wittkowsky often enjoyed speaking in Polish to other immigrants and remarked upon the death of Vance that:
I speak for my race in North Carolina-aye for my people of the whole Union. The deceased has ever by his words and writings demonstrated that he was their friend. His lecture on the Scattered Nation will ever remain green in the memory of my race, and will be one of the brightest jewels to his ever liberal, fair and untarnished escutcheon. And I venture here the assertion that in the history of North Carolina no Israelite has cast a vote against Z.B. Vance.46
Vance’s friendship with Wittkowsky may have been the most personal exposure he had to Jewish people, but it certainly was not the only exposure. The location of his law office during his years in Charlotte brought Vance into frequent contact with the city’s growing merchant population, many of whom were Jewish.47
As stated earlier, while settled in Charlotte, Vance and Wittkowsky would often go hear the Rev. Miller’s sermons together. Also during this period Wittkowsky co-founded Excelsior Lodge No. 261, becoming its first Master in 1867. In 1869 the Masonic Temple Association was formed by three Charlotte Masonic Lodges for the purpose of raising funds to build a temple. The three Lodges were Excelsior Lodge No. 261, Phalanx Lodge No. 31 and Charlotte Chapter No. 39 Royal Arch Masons. Although still technically a member of Mt. Hermon Lodge in 1869 when the association was formed, Vance had been in attendance at Phalanx Lodge, moving his membership there in 1872. Vance is also known to have been active in the Royal Arch Lodge in Charlotte from 1867-74.48 The first fundraiser for the association was a Masonic Fair and Festival held on July 7th, 8th and 9th on the grounds of the First Presbyterian church which Miller pastored and Vance attended.49 These events were taking place around Vance as Scattered Nation must have been forming in his mind, if he was not writing it already.
In writing and delivering Scattered Nation Vance hoped to speak to the increased anti-Semitism that marked the period. In the North anti-Semitism was so pervasive in last half of the nineteenth century that some have spoken of this era as the emerging point of an Anti Semitic society. Addressing this issue in Antisemitism in America, Leonard Dinnerstein states that:
As immigration figures soared, and as a significant Jewish presence emerged in the United States, people in every walk of life, from respectable working, middle, and upper classes to agrarian protesters, Protestant and Catholic spokesmen, and members of the lunatic fringe increasingly focused on the allegedly deleterious characteristics of Jews that they believed impinged on American lives.50
In the South virulent Anti-Semitism had passed with the Civil War and Southerners were more outwardly accepting of their Jewish neighbors for the simple reason that they needed their investment to rebuild from the ravages of war. This acceptance however, was a limited one and depended almost entirely upon how far a Jewish person was willing to assimilate into the mainstream of Southern culture. Another factor in the South was the society’s notion that caucasians should be at least outwardly friendly to one another. These feelings led to an atmosphere wherein it became increasingly detrimental for Jews to assert their unique identity since their safety and prosperity hinged upon how “normal” they could appear.51
These facts led to a curious situation wherein it became increasingly difficult for Jews themselves to speak out about anti-Semitism yet, “[I]t was always possible, of course, for members of the local community elite to sidestep tradition and take an unpopular stand on a specific issue [.]”52 This is exactly what Vance did with each delivery of Scattered Nation. Vance wished to bring attention to latent anti-Semitism and wrote that the Jew should be judged “as we judge other men:”53by his merits. And above all, let us cease the abominable injustice of holding the class responsible for the sins of the individual. We apply this test to no other people.54
It is interesting to note that one of the key strengths of Masonry as identified earlier by Stephen Bullock was its ability to allow politicians to “address the sometimes contradictory cultural and practical demands placed upon them.”55 It may be that Masonry, in addition to being a means of legitimization for Jews in western society as well as an organization that glorifies and honors Judaic concepts and imagery provided not just free space, but also safe space for Jews such as Wittkowsky to honor their traditions without provoking retaliation.
In Delivering Scattered Nation Vance was placing himself firmly within a group among American Protestants that saw the antiquity of the Jewish people and their connections to the nascent Christian faith as reason to show them respect. While most people today associate Christian Zionism and Christianity inspired philosemitism with a brand of religious fundamentalism that seeks to bring about the eschaton and the consummation of history via the vehicle of Israel, based upon a particular interpretation of biblical prophecy, this assumption is at least an over-simplification.
Vance’s friendship with Miller is very important as regards the influence Restorationism and Christian Zionism may have had on the speech. The information about Miller’s interest in things relating to the Israelites as well as the content of his sermons serve to highlight the beliefs of a man, well respected among his colleagues and contemporaries, who was thoroughly ensconced in the ideology of the Restorationist movement. Not only does this information show practically how Miller influenced Vance, it also makes possible the association of Vance and Scattered Nation with English Restorationism and Christian Zionism. Christian Zionism has raised quite a bit of interest in the past few years, especially as relates to “fundamentalist” Christian groups in the United States and their support for Israel.
Though this popularization has served to inform many people as to the source for many evangelical’s support of Israel, it has also served to obscure the roots of Christian Zionism and its manifold connection with mainstream-Protestantism, particularly of an English and American variety. When looking at the imagery used within Scattered Nation it becomes clear that Vance was familiar with and capitalized upon, the way preachers spoke of Israel during this time.
Vance was already an accomplished speaker when tradition asserts that the first delivery of Scattered Nation occurred on February 13, 1874 at the Baltimore Masonic Temple. Although Selig Adler was unsuccessful in obtaining any documentary evidence of this, he points out that it is probable because of Vance’s close association with Baltimore via the former surgeon of his battalion, Dr. Thomas J. Boykin, a resident of Baltimore. The speech seems to have been well known by 1875. It is more probable when looking at certain statements within the speech that it was first written before 1870. In the speech Vance states that “they found no colonies [. . . and] seek nowhere political power or national aggregation” additionally Vance continues:
All nations must have a certain proportion of their population engaged in tilling the soil; as the Jews have no common country they reside in all; and in all countries they have the shrewdness to see that whilst it is most honorable to plow, yet all men live more comfortably than the plowman.56
These statements indicate that Vance had no knowledge either of the Jewish agricultural colony in Palestine that was officially begun in 1870 or in the proto-Zionist movement that spawned it. This colony had been mentioned in the main Charlotte Newspaper, the Western Democrat in 1869, so it is unlikely that Vance remained ignorant after this point.57 Since it is known that the speech underwent several revisions, and that Vance often added or deleted certain portions depending on the audience, it is possible that the surviving version is of an earlier date and was subsequently revised.
While Vance was clearly in a position to be influenced both by the philosemitism within the Masonic Lodge and the Christian Zionism of Miller, the content of Scattered Nation is in keeping with Vance’s overall progressive stance after the Civil War. The former governor had particularly prided himself on the fact that North Carolina never rescinded the writ of habeas corpus during the war and his career after the war demonstrates his commitment to making life better for the people of North Carolina. It was during these post-bellum years while between political offices that Vance struck up his friendships with Wittkowsky and Miller.
The Rev. Dr. Arnold DeWelles Miller was born in Charleston S.C. on October 26th 1822. After attending Charleston College from which he graduated in 1841, Miller went to Columbia Theological Seminary and sought ordination in the Southern Presbyterian Church. After a short time at Fishing Creek in Bethel Presbytery S.C., Miller was called to the First Presbyterian Church of Charlotte in 1855; after two years there however, he was called to a church in Petersburg Virginia, where he remained until shortly before the close of the Civil War when he resigned and spent his time ministering to soldiers. In 1865 Miller returned to the First Presbyterian Church of Charlotte where he remained until his death in 1892. During his time in Charlotte Miller became well known for his interest in and support of and interest in the Jewish people. In its tribute to Miller a few years after his death, the North Carolina Presbyterian pointed out that among his “occasional contributions to church literature” were those written with “rare verve” regarding the restoration of the Jews.58
As stated previously Miller would annually set aside one sermon, basing it entirely on the Old Testament, and invite the Charlotte Jewish community to hear. One such sermon may have been written on the verse Psalm 20:5 “In the Name of our God we will set up our Banners!” Because of the frequency and regularity with which it was given, as well as the subject matter, it is quite possible that this was one of the aforementioned sermons to the Jewish community.59 If it was not one particularly written for the Jewish community, it still serves as an illustration of the ideological position from which Miller spoke:
They are not cast away totally nor finally not totally, for a chosen remnant has always existed and does today. Not finally, for in the latter days, the whole nation-and not remnant simply, as many suppose-shall be restored [italics mine]. “And all Israel shall be saved,” says the Apostle.60
The text of the sermon itself, as well as its content, shows that it went through several revisions over the years. Throughout this sermon, as well as in many of his other writings, Miller demonstrates his adherence to the Restorationist/Christian Zionist stream of theology. Not only does Miller insist that the Jewish people must and will be restored he continually insists that “Romanism and Mohamedanism” are “the 2 greatest hindrances to the greatest blessing which this distracted world is yet to receive at the hands of God, viz., the reconstitution of the Jewish nation, their restoration to the church and to their own land.”61 [Emphasis mine]
While Vance does not display such direct anti-Roman Catholic sentiment, he does use the Papacy to provide a point of reference in his oration, a point that strikes at the heart of his message to his Christian listeners:
Then, too, it must be remembered that these Pontiffs were but Gentiles in the garb of Jews, imitating their whole routine. All Christian churches are but off-shoots from or grafts upon the old Jewish stock. Strike out all of Judaism from the Christian church and there remains nothing but an unmeaning superstition. [Emphasis added]
“The Christian is simply the successor of the Jew” he continues, stating “[t]he Christian religion is equally Jewish with that of Moses and the prophets.”62 In describing the historical Israel, Vance clearly follows the example of many nineteenth century Americans and maps the values of the Republic, in an idealized form, upon the ancients to which he is referring. For Vance “[t]heir laws for the protection of property, the enforcement of industry and the upholding of the state were such as afforded the strongest impulse to personal freedom and national vigor.” In addition, for Vance the government of ancient Israel was not a monarchy or an ordinary theocracy, but rather, it was a “Theocratic Democracy.”63
After Vance’s death examples of what Adler called the “unusual devotion and tribute” shown to Vance by North Carolinians abound, as well as examples of tribute given him by members of the Masonic fraternity of which he was a member and the Jewish community which he defended. After his death in 1894, Vance’s funeral was an outpouring of grief for the people of North Carolina, which several thousand people attended. The Asheville Citizen gives a listing of the various groups attending, among them military units, Confederate veterans, Odd Fellows and Masons. The Lodge record of Mt. Hermon Lodge for that date tells us that members assembled for the “purpose of attending the funeral of our late Brother Zebulon Baird Vance,” and marched 120 strong in the procession that journeyed to Riverside.64 Three years later another Masonic Lodge in Asheville, Asheville Lodge # 410 met and ratified an earlier motion by the Master that Asheville Lodge Assist the Grand Lodge of North Carolina in laying the cornerstone of the Vance monument.65 Selig Adler relates that the fence at the base of the monument was paid for by Jewish merchant Nathan Straus and Maurice Weinstein tells us that in 1926 the Central Conference of American Rabbis held their convention in Asheville and placed a wreath on Vance’s grave.66 In 1929 the Asheville chapter of B’nai B’rith erected a marker to Vance in memory of Scattered Nation at Calvary Church in Fletcher. There are many other examples of memorials to Vance’s memory and in remembrance of Scattered Nation, but these serve to illustrate the great admiration and respect he earned from his contemporaries, and through Scattered Nation, from the Jewish people.
As Vance invoked the power of the American ideals of freedom and national vigor to inspire tolerance in his audience toward Jews, Miller warned of threats against those ideals, to portray Roman Catholicism as the enemy, not just of the Jewish people, but of American liberty. According to Miller the Roman Church of this period maintained that “the temporal must be subordinate to the spiritual, the state to the church,” and indeed it was during this time period that Pope Leo XII issued his scathing criticism of the heresy of Americanism in the Encyclical Testem Benevolentiae Nostrae.
In this way both Miller and Vance demonstrate that they are products of their time and place. The philosemitism of Vance and Miller, as well as Miller’s Christian Zionism, were the products of movements much larger. Vance, Miller and Wittkowsky, like all people, lived within the broad strokes of history and their lives were microcosms and illustrations of events on a grander scale. This paper has attempted to demonstrate some of the ways in which larger ideological and social movements effect personal interactions and the decisions people make in their lives. For these men, as well as for people today, this meant being embedded in a society that was the product of a multitude of ideological conflicts and truces.
Vance’s evocation of American ideals of Republican government and equality, Miller’s scathing criticism of what he perceived as a dictatorial religion, his warnings that such a faith constituted error and a threat not only to American ideals, but Christianity itself and Wittkowsky who exhibited such an ambivalent attitude toward his identity; each of these men were shaped and directed by events larger than themselves and each contributed to the ongoing tale of history in their own way. The reasons behind Vance’s writing of Scattered Nation may never be known, there is no way to know what he was thinking when he decided to pen this address. What can be shown is that there where influences around him that could have led him in such a direction, we may never know exactly what combination of influences motivated him, but these influences should be studied. Not only should they be studied in broad historical terms, but also in the effect they had upon individuals in specific times and places.
- Selig Adler, “Zebulon B. Vance and the `Scattered Nation,'” Journal of Southern History Vol. VII, Num. 3, August 1941, 357-358 [↩]
- James Parton, “Our Israelitish Brethren,” Atlantic Monthly Vol. XXVI, Num. CLVI (October 1870) [↩]
- Leonard Dinnerstein, Antisemitism in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), 177-178. [↩]
- Vance, 68 [↩]
- Louise A. Mayo, The Ambivalent image: Nineteenth Century America’s Perception of the Jew (Rutherford: Fairleigh Dickenson University Press, 1988), 136 [↩]
- Vance, 92. Reform Judaism in the US was at first hostile towards Zionism, having reconciled and committed themselves to creating a life for themselves in the United States. A good illustration of the conflict can be found in Rabbi Max Heller : reformer, Zionist, southerner, 1860-1929 by Bobbie Malone. [↩]
- Vance, 92 [↩]
- Mayo, 136 [↩]
- Vance, 78 [↩]
- In many ways, Vance’s view, though he puts a positive spin on it by focusing on the fact that persecution will cease, foreshadows that of Zionists who insist that Jews must return to Israel if they are to maintain their identity. For an example of Zionist antipathy toward the diaspora see Eliezer Schweid, “The Rejection of the Diaspora in Zionist thought: two approaches” Essential Papers on Zionism, ed. Jehuda Reinharz and Anita Shapira. (New York: New York University Press, 1996) Chapter 6 [↩]
- Harry L. Golden, Jewish Roots in the Carolinas: A Pattern of American Philo-Semitism, 56 [↩]
- Christian Zionism is an umbrella term under which a variety of theologies fit, not all of which agree. [↩]
- Oliver Cromwell, quoted by Paul Charles Merkley in The Politics of Christian Zionism 1891-1948 (Portland: Frank Cass, 1998), 36 [↩]
- As Merkley states: “How ironical it was that it should be Napoleon who had opened the door for the British into Palestine! Indeed, he had done something even more dramatic: he had proposed the restoration of the Jews to their Holy Land; he had told them it was their right; he had told the Christian world that it was its duty, and that in this context Turkey had no countervailing right. This was precisely what British Restorationists believed! Theology, of course, played no part in Napoleon’s consideration: he was a complete unbeliever. Yet millenarians saw the deeper significance of the moment. It made sense that in the last hours of human history Antichrist would mimic the Truth—that is, the Eternal Truth about the Jews and their Land and the responsibilities of the nations toward both. British Restorationists were soon insisting that now was the time to simply take Palestine from the Turks and give it to the Jews to whom it belonged.”, page 39 [↩]
- ibid, 42 [↩]
- David A. Rausch, Zionism Within Early American Fundamentalism, 1878-1913 (New York: E Mellen Press, 1979), 2 [↩]
- Mt. Hermon Lodge Record, 1853, 116 [↩]
- Clement Dowd, Life of Zebulon B. Vance (Charlotte: Observer Printing and Publishing House, 1897), 31 [↩]
- Bullock, 228 [↩]
- “Officers of the Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M. of North Carolina: 1787 to 1887, First One Hundred Years” [↩]
- Bridges, [↩]
- Mt. Hermon Lodge Record, June 20, 1853 [↩]
- E.W. Bridges, Masonic Governors of North Carolina (Oxford: Press of Oxford (Masonic) Orphanage, 1937), 197-204 [↩]
- North Carolina Lodge of Research No. 666. A.F. & A.M., Nocalore: Being the Transactions of the North Carolina Lodge of Research, Nocalore Press 1935, 16; On December 6, 1864 the Grand Master of Masons in North Carolina related the following in his address: “I have granted the following military Dispensations: J.E. Avery Military Lodge, No. 1, 6th N.C. Troops, Hoke’s Brigade; Z.B. Vance Lodge No. 2, 40th Reg’t, Heavy Artillery, N.C.; Vance Brothers’ Lodge No. 3, 43rd N.C. Troops, Daniel’s Brigade; Lodge in the 3rd N.C. Cavalry, No. 4; Chicamauga Lodge, 21st Regiment, No. 5; J.C. McDowell Lodge, 1st N.C. Battalion, No. 6. [↩]
- Frontis Johnson, Zebulon B. Vance Letters, XX [↩]
- “Zebulon Baird Vance” North Carolina Encyclopedia; available from http://statelibrary.dcr.state.nc.us/nc/bio/public/vance.htm [↩]
- Quoted in Zebulon B. Vance and the Scattered Nation, 12-13 [↩]
- Margaret Jacob, “Exits from the Enlightenment: Masonic Routes,” Eighteenth Century Studies, vol 33 n2, winter 2000, pg 251; for an example of the ways in which Freemasonry was associated with both the enlightenment and American ideals during this period, comparison can be made between the Papal Encyclicals Humanum Genus (1884) which condemned Freemasonry and Testem Benevolentiae Nostrae (1899) which condemned the heresy of Americanism; Stephen C. Bullock, “Remapping Masonry: A Comment” Eighteenth Century Studies vol 33 n2, (winter 2000), pg 275, Bullock states: “Until recently, Freemasonry mystified historians.” [↩]
- Jacob Katz, Jews and Freemasons in Europe 1723-1939, trans. Leonard Oschry, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1970), preface to the English edition. [↩]
- William R. Weisberger, “Freemasonry as a source of Jewish Civic Rights in late Eighteenth-century Vienna and Philadelphia: a study in Atlantic History.” East European Quarterly [↩]
- Stephen C. Bullock, Revolutionary Brotherhood: Freemasonry and the transformation of the American Social Order, 1730-1840 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996), 85 [↩]
- William R. Weisberger, “Freemasonry as a source of Jewish Civic Rights in late Eighteenth-century Vienna and Philadelphia: a Study in Atlantic History” East European Quarterly 34 no. 4 (Winter 2000), 2 [↩]
- Weisberger, 6 [↩]
- Bullock, 137 [↩]
- Bullock, 169 [↩]
- Gerald Gamm and Robert D. Putnam, “The Growth of Voluntary Associations in America, 1840-1940.” The Journal of Interdisciplinary History Vol. XXIX Num. 4, Spring 1999, (515) 511-557 [↩]
- Paths of Emancipation: Jews, States, and citizenship, ed. Ira Katznelson and Pierre Birnbaum (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995), [↩]
- William D. and Hilary L. Rubenstein, Philosemitism: Admiration and Support in the English-Speaking World for Jews, 1840-1939 (New York: St. Martin’s Press 1999), 115 [↩]
- Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma, (Charleston: Supreme Council of the Thirty-Third Degree for the Southern Jurisdiction of the United States and Published by its Authority, A.M. 5632), 9 [↩]
- Adler, 360 [↩]
- ibid, 360 [↩]
- Morris Speizman, The Jews of Charlotte, North Carolina: a Chronicle with commentary and conjectures. Charlotte: McNally and Loftin, 1978, 8 [↩]
- ibid [↩]
- ibid [↩]
- John Vaughan, “Leadership Pioneer: Sam Wittkowsky came, he led, and today’s city leaders follow.” The Charlotte Observer, unknown date. [↩]
- Unidentified Newspaper clipping, quoted in Zebulon Vance and the Scattered Nation, 43 [↩]
- Adler, 361 [↩]
- E.W. Bridges, 204; Because Vance is known to have been active in both Phalanx Lodge and R.A. No. 39 it is important to note that the Royal Arch is part of the York Rite of Masonry and as such, is not exactly the same as the other two lodges mentioned; a person could be a member of Excelsior or Phalanx Lodge and still be a member of Royal Arch [↩]
- Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission, “Masonic Temple,” available at: http://www.cmhpf.org/S&RR/masonic.html . The Western Democrat July 6th, 1869; The Western Democrat of July 13, 1869 gives a glowing review of the festival and makes a special note that “A great deal of credit is also due the Hebrew portion of our community—ladies and gentlemen—for their valuable services in perfecting arrangements. Whenever the ‘Jews’ undertake anything they do it well.” [↩]
- Dinnerstein, Antisemitism in America, 35 [↩]
- ibid, 35 [↩]
- ibid, 176 [↩]
- ibid, 177 [↩]
- Vance [↩]
- Bullock, 228 [↩]
- Vance, 82-83 [↩]
- The Western Democrat, May 1869 states in a note headed “Progress of Judaism:” [. . .] Three matters of importance, we are told, are just now occupying the attention of the Jews at large. [. . .] the second is the establishment of an agricultural colony in Palestine[.] [↩]
- “Arnold DeWelles Miller, D.D. LL.D” North Carolina Presbyterian Old Series Vol. XXXIX No. 2,711. Thursday, Sept. 30, 1897 [↩]
- Arnold DeWelles Miller, Sermon. Miller records that this sermon was given on the following dates: January 6th, 1861 and (in Charlotte) 1887. Charlotte: January 4, 5 1868 and 1873, January 2nd 1876 and 1881 [↩]
- Arnold DeWelles Miller, In the Name of Our God We Will Set up our Banners!” [↩]
- Miller, In the Name of Our God we will Set up our Banners; to help make his point Rev. Miller quotes a Dr. Philippson, the Jewish editor of a journal in Germany, “The Church of Rome has made an integral part of its very essence and endeavors, to persecute the Jews, in word and deed, in the most hateful manner and to plant in the hearts of the nations, the bitterest enmity hatred and contempt against the Jews.” Additionally, the fact that the Masonic Fair mentioned earlier took place on the grounds of the First Presbyterian Church is interesting. While this may only be a testament to the prominence of the First Presbyterian Church at this time, it may also indicate that Rev. Miller himself was a Mason. While there appear to be no documents to corroborate this suspicion, it is hard to imagine a minister who so rigorously defended his Church and his flock from heresy—even going so far as to forbid the celebration of Easter for having a “Pagan, Popish and Jewish” origin—not protesting the location of the fair unless he had more than second hand information about the Lodge; Rev. Miller wrote a letter to a lady from Asheville responding to an apparent question about appropriateness of Easter celebrations. Montreat: Julia McGehee Alexander collection, Box 1 of 23, correspondence. [↩]
- Vance, 68 [↩]
- ibid, 71-72 [↩]
- Mt. Hermon Lodge Record, 1894 [↩]
- Asheville Lodge Record, December 16, 1897 [↩]
- Weinstein, 24 [↩]