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Judge O’Neale


Our readers have no doubt read with attention two articles, which we lately printed, respecting the decision of the Court of Appeals of South Carolina, in the case of the City of Charleston vs. Sol. A. Benjamin. One of the papers was signed “An Hebrew,” the other “An American Jew.” We gave them as strong and proper protests against the injustice of depriving a citizen of this country of his natural right on account of his religion, and secondly against the equally unjust assumption of an especial sanctity in the Christian religion, to which it is <<301>>not entitled as a matter of right. We rejoiced that at length other Israelites, besides the Editor of the Occident, had resolved to step forward and debate the point with calmness and force before the tribunal of the world, and to do battle for the sacred cause which has, alas! too long borne the fate of a conquered principle. Conquered indeed it was, and it continues still in a state of depression; but it still survives as vigorous and elastic as ever; and thus it deserves, as it will always receive, defenders whenever there is a call, among those who are free to speak and act; and if the appointed defenders and teachers should even desert their posts, or retain a recreant silence, there will be others, called out from the ranks of the people, to do their devoirs, the others failing in theirs.

Some of our readers may perhaps have thought, that “An American Jew” spoke with too much bitterness; but no, he only met prejudice and unjust assumption with proper and bold defiance, throwing back the latter with great point and just rebuke, and proving that so far from Christianity being the source of morality, it never established a single point not before known to the Jews; consequently their morality must be as pure as that of the dominant church, and hence again Christianity was not needed to teach a pure morality, and is accordingly not the only source of good morals, and, by inference again, it has no claim to the being upheld at the expense of our persuasion, by the especial legislation which has occasionally been attempted in its favour, and which the Supreme Courts of South Carolina and Pennsylvania  have lately confirmed  by their judicial verdict. It was therefore time to rise up against the progress of intolerance; and for one, we thank our correspondent thus publicly, for having discharged his duty, and we hope that his signature may often appear in our pages.

One good effect he has already produced; Judge O’Neale himself has thought that some apology was due to our people, although not to our friend, who we are sure will gladly forgive the petulance of the venerable delinquent, for the candour with which he confesses to the morality of the Bible, otherwise called the Old Testament. Of course Judge O’Neale claims, that as a Christian he could not say otherwise than that his system was the only standard known to him of good morals. But with due deference to the honourable gentleman, we say that as long as he recognised the Jews’ Bible, he might have easily seen that they had as good a standard as he has. Nevertheless we return our acknowledgment to Judge O’Neale for his candid acknowledgment of an error, and unintentional wrong; and he displays a generous heart, one the like of which we could wish would beat in the bosom of all our adversa<<302>>ries. With these few remarks we submit the following to our readers, of which they can judge for themselves.—Ed. Oc.

Springfield, S. C., August 8th, 1848.

To Mr. Isaac Leeser, Editor of the Occident

Sir—Two of the July numbers of your periodical have been sent to me, I suppose, that I might be apprised of the great courtesy and liberality of an American Jew. To him, I have no answer to make!

It seems, however, that some of your people, the Jews, have taken offence at an observation in my opinion in the case of the City Council vs. Benjamin, that I knew “no other standard of good morals” than Christianity. To them I would say, that the thought of offending them, or depreciating their religion, never entered my mind! The Bible is a part, and a large part, of Christianity. In asserting Christianity to be the only standard of good morals, the Bible was of course as much that standard as the New Testament. To Gentiles, the Bible was made the standard of good morals, as well as a message of salvation, by the mission and teaching of Jesus Christ! How I, not born a Jew, could say otherwise, than that Christianity was the only standard known to me of good morals, is hard for me to conceive. I love, honour, and reverence the Bible too much, to do or say aught, which would cause it to be supposed, that I did not, regard it “as a standard of good morals.”


John Belton O’Neale