Letter from Mordecai Noah to General Peter Porter, August 17, 1824
New York 17 Augst. 1824
You have several times expressed to me an interest, which I am certain you feel, in my project of offering an asylum to the Jews on Grand Island. No man is a prophet in his own Country, and as Marshall Turennes said in reference to domestic opinions, “no man is great in presence of his valet.” Among my brethren in the United States (with all of whom I stand well) the project, though not considered visionary, is nevertheless objectionable from the fear that the conduct of Jewish emigrants might possibly bring them into disrepute. But in Europe it has created intense anxiety which has led to an important correspondence and there my project & myself occupy a more important space in public opinion than at least I merit-and the public stations which I have held have contributed to give weight and importance to my views.
Grand Island is to be sold, probably in November next, as a person left Albany lately to survey and value it. I have been looking about for a suitable person to unite with in the successful prosecution of my project. Your residence in that neighborhood, your knowledge of the Country and its resources, the desire you must feel to bring a wealthy & enterprising but persecuted people in that hospitable & flourishing Country, our knowledge of each other, and the character you sustain among us-all these considerations make it desirable that you should if consistent with your views embark with me in this laudable & prosperous project.
Briefly, if I succeed in making purchase of the whole, or part of Grand Island, I contemplate calling together a number of our people, sufficiently numerous to form on that spot a Sanhedrin of seventy members, in which the affairs of the Jewish Nation will be principally discussed. We shall then lay the foundation stone, on a suitable spot, of a city to be called Jerusalem, in which we shall be assisted by the Grand Lodge of the State & all the military aid in the Neighborhood to produce abroad the conviction that the project is sanctioned by the people.
It is then my intention to have the city laid off in Lots & Squares, with suitable field books, handsome views of the island, of Buffalo, Black Rock & [the] neighborhood. The Legislature, at the ensuing Session, will pass a Law confirming a title to certain limited portions of Land to any alien who may purchase abroad. Thus fortified with the approbation of the people, the sanction of the Legislature, & the security of title supported by strong personal claims, & in all probability endorsed by the General Government, I propose going to Europe, and calling together the important & wealthy portion of the Jewish people. I contemplate spreading my plans before them & inducing the younger portion of the population to purchase & emigrate. The Island may contain about 17,000 acres, & may possibly bring $50,000. Out of the purchase money, $6,000 only will be required; for the remainding part any credit can be obtained from the State.
In laying off a City to contain 1,000 acres, divided into 1,000 building Lots, I shall have no difficulty in disposing of these 1,000 Lots, free of taxes for five years, at $100 each lot. And such will be the pressure and anxiety in Europe to obtain a lot of undisputed title that the whole Island can be disposed of with ease at an immense profit; thus offering a happy & safe asylum to our people, and at the same time-by & with their approbation & consent realising a princely fortune.
One impediment alone exists, namely want of present means. To realise the purchase of that Island, to pay the Eight[h] of the total amount as required by Law, & to pay incidental expenses of a voyage to Europe, the small investment of $10,000 only would be required. And if you are inclined to join me in this project, I will freely divide all the advantages which must grow out of it. I shall communicate more at large with you, on the receipt of your answer.
Very sincerely & truly yours
In Peter Porter Papers, item HH-26, Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society (punctuation modernized).
Letter from Mordecai Noah to General Peter Porter, September 13, 1824
I wrote a long letter to you some time ago respecting Grand Island & wait impatiently for your reply. Favour me with a few lines as there are several persons desirous of embarking with me in the undertaking.
Very truly yours
New York 13 Sept 1824
In Norton Collection of the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library, Buffalo, New York.
Letter from Mordecai Noah to Aloan Stewart, Esq., Cherry Valley, New York, October 5, 1825
We have not as yet been able to fix when a definitive plan relative to Grand Island. Waiting to see the effect produced in Europe. Although I think the land worth more than 50 per cent advance on the purchase, I am sure it will bring more. But for the present I would not advise you to purchase. I shall give you the first intimation when I think it can be safely done.
NY 5 October 1825
In Papers of Mordecai Manuel Noah (Box 1, Folder 2) at the American Jewish Historical Society, Center for Jewish History, New York, New York.
Letter from Mordecai Noah to Erasmus H. Simon, Esq., Utica, New York, October 22, 1825
New York 22 October 1825
Your favour from Utica has been duly received, — and for the oblidging terms in which you are pleased to approve my recent measures towards our proscribed & unhappy bretheren I pray you accept my thanks. — I did not venture on this bold & novel project, without anticipating all that prejudice, suspicion, doubt, ill will & superstition would say; the experience which public life has afforded, warned me of all the obstacles which I should encounter, in the successful completion of the great object in view. — Looking upon these things with the coldness of a Philosopher, & not with the fretful impatience of a visionary enthusiast, I have deliberately acted & stand as the pioneer of the great work, leaving others to complete it, & reap their share of honor & glory, contenting myself with the assurance, that this is the country which the Almighty has blessed, & in which Israel & Judah may repose in safety & happiness. When sneers and mockery shall have had their day, when the presence of many Jewish emigrants in this country shall dissipate all doubts, then my motives & objects will have been duly estimated & rewarded in the only way I aspire to, with public approbation. — I feel happy to perceive that you concur with me in opinion, that the aborigines of America, are the descendants of our lost tribes. You may not be apprised of the fact, that Manasseh ben Israel wrote a work 200 years ago, attempting to shew that they are the remnant of the lost tribes, relying upon facts produced to him by the first voyagers to Mexico. — [James] Adair & [Elias] Budinot have both written interesting works on the subject, & Sir Alexander McKenzie in his travels on the North West Coast affirms, that the Indians near the Copper Islands preserve the right [sic] of Circumcision. Your intentions of residing amongst them and endeavouring to soften & humanise them, is honorable to your feelings & creditable to your principles. — I shall not fail in the project I have undertaken, & shall settle a small congregation on Grand Island, from which tender plant may in time spring up a goodly & flourishing tree.
I ask no recognition of power, no submission to authority, but such as honor, conscience & good faith shall warrant. Wishing you success in every effort which may tend to confirm & perpetuate a belief in the unity & omnipotence of our ever living God, & in extending the happiness of all mankind,
Respectfully & truly
Your friend & well wisher,
M. M. NOAH
By mail I send you two or three papers, should I pass through Utica I shall call & see you.
Acquired by American Jewish Historical Society, 1958. Letter to Erasmus H. Simon with respect to the belief that the American Indians are descendants of the lost tribes of Israel, and the establishment of a small congregation on Grand Island, October 22, 1825; Photostat