Disraeli Quote on PQHN

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Mon Feb 7 06:47:09 UTC 2005

Apologies for following up on my own post again...

On Mon, 7 Feb 2005 00:16:51 -0500, I wrote:

>I also see references to a very similar quote supposedly made by Senator
>Judah Peter Benjamin of Louisiana, some time prior to the Civil War
>(during which time he was Secretary of War for the Confederacy).

I found this on Amazon:

_Judah P. Benjamin_ by Eli Evans (Free Press, 1988), pp. 96-7

Once, during the debate on the extension of slavery into Kansas, Senator
Ben Wade of Ohio goaded Benjamin [referring to "Israelites with Egyptian
principles"]. ...
There is some debate as to Benjamin's answer, and historians differ as to
whether the remarks attributable to Benjamin were actually uttered by him,
but the legend of his answer exists and should be recorded. "It is true
that I am a Jew," he is reported to have said, "and when my ancestors were
receiving their Ten Commandments from the immediate hand of Deity, amidst
the thunderings and lightnings of Mount Sinai, the ancestors of my
opponent were herding swine in the forests of Great Britain."
Historians provide at least four different versions of when, where, and to
whom that retort was made. Disraeli is also said to have made a similar
one. The quote cannot be verified, but the statement remains a part of the
legend of Judah P. Benjamin, even though it indicates an uncharacteristic
acknowledgement in public of his Jewishness.

There's also a footnote with references to the differing accounts of the
supposed comment.

--Ben Zimmer

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