Moses Levy of Florida: Jewish Utopian and Antebellum Reformer

By Whitfield, Stephen J. | Shofar, Winter 2007 | Go to article overview

Moses Levy of Florida: Jewish Utopian and Antebellum Reformer


Whitfield, Stephen J., Shofar


Moses Levy of Florida: Jewish Utopian and Antebellum Reformer, by C. S. Monaco. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2005. 240 pp. $44.95.

Students of the American past are increasingly being urged to heed the call of "trans-Atlantic history," to enlarge their subject beyond passport control by letting their own particular sub-fields-whether it be slavery or ideas-lap upon the shores of Africa and Europe. One apt response to this professional appeal has come from an independent scholar rather than an academician. The title of C. S. Monaco's biography of Moses Elias Levy (1782-1854) implies a cramped geographic scope that is belied by the restlessness of a life so extraordinary that reviewers of this book will undoubtedly be compelled to describe it as "colorful." Moses Levy of Florida begins in Morocco, and then nimbly follows Levy from Gibraltar to the West Indies, from the antebellum South to imperial London, and then back to Florida as it emerged from primitive near-isolation into statehood.

Levy is best known for his initiative in establishing a Jewish agricultural colony in Florida called Pilgrimage, the first communitarian settlement in American Jewish history. Pilgrimage lasted thirteen years. But its founder was more than a dimly-remembered body double to Mordecai Manuel Noah (whose "Ararat" was even more of a flame-out). A year before David Walker's fiery Appeal in Four Articles (1829) demanding an end to slavery was published in Boston, Levy's emancipatory Plan for the Abolition of Slavery appeared-anonymously, to be sure, and in London rather than in the U.S. Such radical sentiments did not prevent Levy from owning bondsmen himself (though he apparently treated them humanely). A canny and energetic entrepreneur, he took big risks in the shipping business, operating in St. Thomas, Curaçao, and Cuba. Hoping to grow sugar cane in East Florida, Levy discovered that he had "embarked myself in a wild country peopled with wolves instead of men" (quoted on p. 99). Anyone who wanted to lure his co-religionists into such a territory so as to avoid antisemitism was either a fool or a messianist, and Monaco shows how deeply Levy expected a colony like Pilgrimage to hasten the moment of redemption. He was more a dreamer than a schemer, more attentive to the End of Days than to the bottom line. But success in business did enable Levy to parlay a respectable place in British society into open and vigorous advocacy of Jewish legal rights and civic claims-whether in behalf of English or Russian Jewry. Such political action antedated by over three decades the formation of the Alliance Israélite Universelle (1860), much less the American Jewish Committee (1906).

Prior to the publication of Moses Levy of Florida, anyone interested in this unusual yet admirable career had to start and virtually end with Leon Huhner's article on Levy, which appeared in 1941 in the Florida Historical Quarterly, plus a very few other pieces devoted to Pilgrimage. Monaco's extensive research has been even more impressive, however, having gained access to two dozen archival collections (from St. Augustine to Seville, from Harvard to Havana). Such is his diligence and scrupulousness that this biography won't be superseded. By retracing Levy's versatile and visionary career every step of the way, the author has portrayed an international Jew not exactly aligned with his own time-a little too much of an anticlerical rationalist to be comfortable with the romantic religious awakenings that had buried the Enlightenment, a little too proud of his Jewishness to share his co-religionists' yearning for acceptance in societies that resented "clannishness," a little too philanthropic to be satisfied, for example, with the acquisitive aspirations of the commercial elite of the Caribbean that welcomed him into its ranks. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Moses Levy of Florida: Jewish Utopian and Antebellum Reformer
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.