This date marks the death of Judah P. Benjamin (1811-1884), an American-Jewish statesman. Benjamin was the second Jew to serve in the U.S. Senate, representing Louisiana. When another senator accused him of being an "Israelite in Egyptian clothing," Benjamin, who had married into a prominent Roman Catholic family, replied: "It is true that I am a Jew, and when my ancestors were receiving their Ten Commandments from the immediate Deity, amidst the thundering and lightnings of Mount Sinai, the ancestors of my opponent were herding swine in the forests of Great Britain." Two U.S. presidents (Franklin Pierce and Millard Fillmore) offered to nominate Benjamin as the first Jew to the U.S. Supreme Court, but Benjamin declined. During the Civil War, Benjamin served in the cabinet of the Confederacy – variously as Attorney General, Secretary of War, and Secretary of State. In the aftermath of the war, Benjamin was targeted for his Confederate loyalties; a rumor even surfaced that he had masterminded the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Fearing that he could never receive a fair trial, he burned his personal papers and fled to England under a false name. Benjamin was buried in Paris.
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