HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO JUDAH P. BENJAMIN
Judah Phillip Benjamin was born on August 11, 1811, in London, England.
He was an attorney and politician who served in the U S. Senate from 1853 to 1861, from the great state of Louisiana.
With Southern opinion turning in favor of secession, Benjamin made a farewell speech in the Senate on December 31, 1860, to a packed gallery, desirous of hearing one of the South’s most eloquent voices. They were not disappointed; Evans writes that “historians consider Benjamin’s farewell … one of the great speeches in American history”. Benjamin foresaw that the South’s departure would lead to civil war:
“What may be the fate of this horrible contest none can foretell; but this much I will say: the fortunes of war may be adverse to our arms; you may carry desolation into our peaceful land, and with torch and firebrand may set our cities in flames … you may do all this, and more, but you never can subjugate us; you never can convert the free sons of the soil into vassals, paying tribute to your power; you never can degrade them to a servile and inferior race. Never! Never!”
Benjamin and his Louisiana colleague, John Slidell, resigned from the U.S. Senate on February 4, 1861, nine days after their state voted to secede from the Union.
He served the Confederate States of America as tge firat Attorney General, second Secretary of War and third Secretary of State until the office was abolished in May of 1865.
After the War of Northern Aggression ended, Benjamin fled the United States eventually settling back in the country of his birth, and spending tme in Paris where he suffered a final heart attack on May 6, 1884.
Natalie Benjamin, his wife, had the last rites of the Catholic Church administered to her Jewish husband before his death and funeral services were held in a church prior to Judah Benjamin’s interment at Père Lachaise Cemetery in the St. Martin family crypt. His grave did not bear his name until 1938, when a plaque was placed by the Paris chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.