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“Yes, it is true that I am a Jew, and when my ancestors were receiving the Ten Commandments from their immediate Deity, the ancestors of my opponent were herding swine in the forests of Great Britain.” Judah, both smiling and speaking, replied: “If it be a sin to covet honor, I am the most offending soul alive.”
ACT, the Second, or, a kNight Playing at a Fool’s Errant
[herein, of three thorny crowns, a la his distant Hebrew cousin]
Such a friendship, tempered with fiery flashes of passion (an understandably paranoid Jewish Senator, that chamber’s first, mistook commentary by Senator Davis, leading nearly to a duel challenge, for which Davis promptly and profusely apologized) was to elevate that Hebrew tribesman to lofty heights of power, albeit in a newborn nation. Benjamin, no longer a U.S. Senator (a position for which he eschewed appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court), hadn’t anything else to do, beyond mastering his plantation interests, and plying his legal skills privately; he was offered the successive posts of Attorney General, Secretary of War, & Secretary of State, C.S.A. And, it was in that latter post as essential foreign minister, that he worked day and night to ensnare England, his future home, in the conflict whose outcome that wiser nation discreetly viewed with insouciance of a ‘pox on both your houses’ variety.
As for perhaps his thorniest crown’s tenure, suffice to say that his was a temperament suited for lawsuits and their nonviolent, if impassioned, pursuit, leaving enforcement of judgments, often won, to the civil constabulary. Hence, the familiar role of scapegoat, a decidedly Hebraic tribal ritual role, was heaped upon him rather easily, all the while covering President Davis’ stubborn overlording of the southern armies, often observed more in the breach by the field commanders. (It has been accurately observed that the only military mind Lee was unable to defeat was Davis’). ‘Benjamin Hardtack’ was a lasting bitter epithet for the resulting mismanagement of war food (and other) supplies, an unsavory staple of the rebel armies, when and if available, consisting of
cornbread soaked in bacon drippings, dried beans, and hot water with salt or brown sugar sprinkled on it, a barely palatable brick-like lump. No doubt, the pork belly component was as repugnant to Judah as he was to the meal’s consumers.
According to Davis’s wife Varina, Benjamin was never lacking for effort, her diary recounting work habits beside her husband like none other in the Cabinet, bordering on the slavish, depriving (some have said, relieving) her of Jefferson’s nightly companionship; as Judah was, in turn, a large fraction of it, over time, this may be seen as objective hourly tallying rather than opinion. And, yet, Davis' own memoirs make only two perfunctory references to Benjamin’s efforts. It is unknown whether he merely fell on his own sword, playing at the good Roman, or allowed Benjamin to twist in that same wind which would carry away the Confederacy, and, eventually Benjamin himself, via sail, and steam, to England, where the diffidence of both men, for decidedly differing reasons, would find welcome.
Ambition had, it seems, been made of this, their sterner stuff
ACT, the Third, or, a Darkening kNights’ Round Table
[herein, of the last leavings of the CSA’s table, and provisioning for flight to the land of Arthur’s]
South, from the Commonwealth’s Danville rail line (Virgil Cain nowhere to be seen, or heard) (11), their capital for eight days, to various locales, ever southward, until at Fort Mill, South Carolina, on April 27, 1865, on the lawn of a private home, their final sit-down would be had. Arriving with a dwindling cavalry detachment, and treasury, in heavy gold and silver coinage, Davis, whilst seated, allowed his mind to magically carry him first to Lynchburg, then Texas where his imaginary forces would continue guerilla warfare in the name of a republic, of sorts, which had ceased to materially be. The sole material physicality of that lost country consisted of approximately $300,000 worth of bullion and coins, and a third of that was said to belong to Virginia and Louisiana banks. One such bank, Citizens of New Orleans, issued paper bills denonimated ‘dix’, French for ten. Such was the realm of ‘Dixie’, then, that its banks backed their local currency with Confederate gold; as collateral for loans, this and other credit institutions which dealt with lords of the plantation sub-culture like Judah P. Benjamin, often took slaves, the oldest sin, committed in the newest kinds of ways
. (12) (Reparations notwithstanding, in 2005, in compliance with an extant Chicago city ordinance, Bank One, later acquired by J.P. Morgan Chase, announced the formation of a scholarship program, Smart Start Louisiana, which provided $1 million annually [for five years] scholarships for African American students from that state who attend college there. The filing made by Bank One featured specific Louisiana landowners, and the names of enslaved individuals.) Approximately 1,250 slaves became the property of this and other southern banks due to default on those loans; how many Creole ethnics were among them is unknown, but it is likely that there were many. How many may have been distant relations to the lovely Creole debutante bride of plantation owner/client Judah P. Benjamin, Miss St. Martin, was a question of fact neatly consigned to that same neutral wind by the disciplined mind of the future barrister of England---where such practices had been outlawed, albeit only since 1833----as was the legal paperwork underpinning such chattel dealings to an always accomodating fireplace.
Lost Shakespearean PlayER, ‘Sir kNight, Benjamin of Judah‘, Found continues...