Tuesday, August 23, 2016

ET Almanac: Greatest Letter Ever

To Meirs Fisher, Esquire:

I must address you, in this manner, although you do not deserve it. Unaccustomed as you are to receive any mark of respect from the public, it will be expected that I should make an apology for introducing a character, fetid and infamous, like yours, to general notice and attention. Your conspicuous Toryism and disaffection long since buried you in the silent grave of popular oblivion and contempt; and your extraordinary conduct and deportment, in several other respects, has brought and reduced you to that dreary dungeon of insignificance, to that gulf of defeated spirits, from whch even the powers of hope "that comes to all" cannot relieve or better you.

In this most miserable of all situations, principally arising from an obstinate, inflexible perseverance in your political heresy and schism (so detestable in itself, so ruinous and destructive to our country, and obnoxious to all around us), you are now left quite destitute and forlorn! Unhappy and disappointed man! Once exiled and excommunicated by the state, as a sly, insiduous enemy; severed and detached from the generous bosom of patriotism and public virtue; severed and detached from the generous bosom of patriotism and public virtue; shunned and deserted by faithful friends, in whom you once so safely trusted; since, debarred and prevented from your practice by rule of court as an attorney at the bar; and excluded from your practice by rule of court as an attorney at the bar, and excluded from every other essential and dignified privilege of which the rest of citizens can boast--with the wretched remains of a wrecked reputation--you exhibit so complete a spectacle of distress and wretchedness, as rather excites one's tenderness than vengeance, and would soten and melt down dispositions more relentless and unforgiving than mine!

But whatever claims of mercy you may demand, on these accounts; whatever I should think, were I to judge of you as your personal enemy in private respects; yet the forward and unexampled advances and steps you have lately taken in the concert of public affairs; the high-cockaded air of fancied importance you now assume; the petulant, discontented humor you have manifested for establishing a new bank; your longings and pantings to approach our political vineyard, and blast the fruits of those labors for which you neither toiled nor spun; and more particularly, the indecent, unjust, inhumane aspersions, you cast so indiscriminately on the Jews of this city at large, in your arguments of Wednesday week, before the honorable legislature of the commonwealth--these circumstances, if my apprehensions are right, preclude you from any lenity or favor, and present you a fair victim and offering to the sacred altar of public justice.

You are not therefore to expect any indulgence, because you merit none. I daresay you experience it not in your own feelings; nor have you any right whatever to hope for the least tenderness from me. You shall not have it, and if you are cut and smarted with the whip and lashes of my reproach and resentments, if I lay my talons and point out the ingrate, if my tongue is clamorous of you and your odiouos confederates, and I should pain the tenderest veins of their breasts--remember, you first gave birth to all yourself that it arose entirely from you; and in tracing of events hereafter to the source you will, perhaps, find to your sorrow and cost that you are only blamable for whatever consequences have or may arise on the occasion.

You not only endeavored to injure me by your unwarrantable expressions, but every other person of the same religious persuasion I hold, and which the laws of the country, and the glorious toleration and liberty of conscience, have allowed me to indulge and adopt. The injury is highly crimsoned and aggravated, as there was no proper reason or ground for your invectives. The attack on the Jews seemed wanton, and could only have been premeditated by such a base and degenerate mind as yours. It was not owing to the sudden sallies of passion, or to the warmth of disconcerted and hasty imagination. I cannot, therefore, place it to the account of mere human frailties, in which your will and understanding had no concern, and for which I am always disposed to make every compassionate allowance. And though an individual is not obliged to avenge the inuries of particular societies and sectaries of men, he is nevertheless called upon, by every dear and serious consideration, to speak his mind freely and independently of public transactions and general events, to assert his own share in the public consequence and to act his part fairly on the social theater.

Permit me, then, with this view of things, to take notice of these terms of reproach and invective which, considering you as a friend to good manners and decorum, you have heaped upon our nation and prefession with so liberal and unsparing a hand. I am a Jew; it is my own nation and profession. I also subscribe myself a broker, and a broker, too, whose opportunities and knowledge, along with other brokers of his intimate acquaintance, in a great course of business, has made him very familiar and privy to every minute design and artifice of your wily colleagues and associates.

I exult and glory in reflecting that we have the honor to reside in a free country where, as a people, we have met with the most generous contenance and protection; and I do not at all despair, not withstanding former obstacles, that we shall obtain every other privilege that we aspire to enjoy along with our fellow-citizens. It also affords me unspeakable satisfaction, and is indeed one of the most pleasing employments of my thoughtful moments, to contemplate that we have in general been early uniform, decisive Whigs, and were second to none in our patriotism and attachment to our country!

What but Erinnys itself could have thus tempted you to wander from the common path of things, and go a stray among throns and briars? What were your motives and inducements for introducing the Jews so disrespectfully into your unhallowed and polluted lips? Who are you, or what are you (a mere tenant at sufferance, of your liberty) that in a free country you dar to trample on any sectary whatever of people? Did you expect to serve yourself, or your friends and confederates--these serpents in our bosom, whose poisonous stings have been darted into every patriot character among us?

In any other place, in managing another cause, you might have had patience to attend to the consequence of such unpardonable rashness and temerity. But here you thought yourself safe, and at full leave to take the most unlicensed liberties with characters, in regard of whom you can in no respect pretend to vie! You shall yet repent, even in sackcloth and ashes, for the foul language in which you have expressed yourself. And neither the interposition of some well meant though mistaken Whigs who, I am sorry to think, have joined you, "or even the sacred shield of cowardice shall protect you," for your transgressions. Who knows but the beams of that very denomination whom you have traduced may, on one day, perhaps not very remote, warm you into the most abject servility, and make you penitentially solemnize what you have done?

An error is easily remedied, and there may be some compensation for actual injuries. But a downright insult can neither be forgiven or forgot, and seldom admits of atonement or reparation. It is our happiness to live in times of enlightened liberty, when the human mind, liberated from the restraints nad fetters of superstition and authority, hath been taught to conceive just sentiments of its own; and when mankind, in matters of religion, are quite charitable and benevolent in their opinions of each other.

Individuals may act improperly, and sometimes deserve centure; but it is no less unjust than ungenerous to condemn all for the faults of a few, and reflect generally on a whole community for the indiscretion of some particular persons. There is no body of people but have some exceptionable characters with them; and even your own religious sectary, whom you have compelled me to dissect int he course of this address, are not destitute of very proper subjects of criticism and animadversion.

Good citizens who nauseate, and public who contemn, have heard your invectives against the Jews. Unhappily for you, a long series of enormities have proved you more your own enemy than I am. To you, then, my worthy friends and fellow-citizens (characters teeming with strict candor and disinterestedness), do I turn myself with pleasure from that sterile field, from that Grampian desert, which hath hitherto employed me.

It is your candor I seek; it is your disinterestedness I solicit. The opinions of Fisher and his adherents, whether wileful in their malignity, or sincere in their ignorance, are no longer worthy of my notice. His observations are low; his intentions are too discernible. His whole endeavors center in one point, namely, to create a new bank.

To effect this end, he has spared neither pains or labors. He has said everything that artifice could dictate, or malice invent. He has betrayed himself in a thousand inconsistencies, and adopted absurdities which, supposing him a man of sense and observation, would have disgraced the lips of an idiot.

And for whom is the new bank meant and intended? For the benefit of men like himself, who have been in general averse and opposed to the war and common cause: for the insurgents against our liberty and independence; for mercenary and artful citizens, where selfish views are totally incompatible with the happiness of the people; for bifronted political Januses, the mere weathercocks of every breeze and gale that blows.

Who traded with the enemy? Who first depreciated the public currency? Who lent our enemies money to carry on the war? Who were spies and pilots to the British? Who prolonged the war? Who was the cause of so many valuable men losing their lives in the field and prison ships? Who did not pay any taxes? Who has now the public securities in hand? Who would not receive our Continentlal money? Who has purchased Burgoyne's convention bills? Who depreciated the French bills? Who depreciated the bills of the United States on Paris? Who slandered the institution of the Bank of North America? Who refused taking banknotes when the first issued? Who discouraged the people from lodging money in the bank? And are these the people who want a charter from our legislature? Shall such a bastard progeny of freedom, such jests and phantoms of patriotism and the social virtues be indulged in their wishes? For shame! For shame! Surrender the puerile, the fruitless pretensions! Public honor and public gratitude cry aloud against you, and says, or seems to say, as earnest as your endeavors have been, you shall not have your charter.

From such a medley and group of characters (an impure nest of vipers, the very bloodhounds of our lives and liberties) we have every thing to hazard, and nothing to expect. Suspicion shakes her wary head against them, and experience suggests that the sly, insinuating intrigues and combinations of these persons are to be watched and guarded against as much as possible. Though the proposals are generous and captivating, their practices, I will venture to affirm, cannot correspond, and however fascinating they may be in appearance, they may exercise the hand, the hairy hand of Esau!

I shall not inquire whether two banks in a commercial country would not clash with each other, and prove exceeding detrimental and injurious to the community. Having only ventured to give an account of the leading characters who compose the new bank, allow me in conclusion to rectify an error of Mr. Fisher's, who publicly declared, "the Jews were the authors of high and unusual interest." No! The Jews can acquit themselves of this artful imputation, and turn your own batteries on yourself. It was neither the Jews or Christians that founded the practice, but Quakers--and Quakers worse than heathens, pagans, or idolators; men, though not Jews in faith, are yet Jews in traffic; men abounding with avarice, who neither fear God, nor regard man.

Those very persons who are now flattering themselves with the idea of a new bank, first invented the practice of discounting notes at five percent. I have retained an alphabetical list of names, as well as the other brokers, and can specify persons, if necessary. In the language of Naphtali to David, I have it in my power to point at the very would-be directors, and say; venture money in trade during the war, who first declined letting out money in the best mortgage and bond security.

Were they now gratified in their expectations, would they not display the same undue spirit and degrade the dignity of a bank with practices unbecoming a common broker? Is it not in their power to finesse at the bank, and refuse discounting notes on purpose to gripe the necessitous part of the people, and extort improper premiums out of doors? And have we not reason to expect that would not be the case?

A Jew Broker


(Perhaps I should change the title to "Most Jewish Letter Ever.")

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