When Grant’s own father visited his son’s Oxford, Miss., headquarters with a group of such hustlers, several of whom were Jewish, Grant impulsively initiated the kind of step Donald Trump has proposed for other demographic groups: A week before Christmas, Grant issued an edict banning Jews from the territory.
A minor footnote in the Civil War, this event was also a minor footnote in American Jewish history. The Jews living in Paducah, Ky., where Grant’s order was most resented, didn’t actually leave the city during the short time the order was in effect.
One Jewish merchant did depart Paducah, however, and he did so in a hurry. His name was Cesar Kaskel, and he rushed to Washington intending to lodge a protest directly to the commander-in-chief.
Religious freedom was guaranteed by the Constitution, and had been affirmed — directly to the Jewish community — by no less an American eminence than George Washington. It was why people of Cesar Kaskel’s faith had come to these shores, and why there were Jews in Paducah in the first place.
Now, in a war being fought to free the slaves, no less, President Lincoln’s favorite general was causing offense by using the words “profiteer” and “Jew” interchangeably, and issuing edicts forcing them to be refugees in their own land.