Isaac Mayer Wise
Civil War and Politics




             It would be unreasonable to speak of an influential figure of the mid-nineteenth century without mentioning his/her position on slavery and the Civil War.  Many claimed that slavery was “an institution sanctioned by Judaism” (Temkin 177).  Wise, though, did not take this stance.  In fact, it would prove difficult to pinpoint his views on any matter surrounding the Civil War.  Wise was anti-slavery but did not support the eradication of the institution, calling abolitionists “disturbers of the peace”(176).  His views on the unity of the American Jews broadened to embrace unity in general.  He was, therefore, against secession, though he refused to support the Union cause (181).  Like most Jews of the day, he sought to avoid involvement in the issue (136). 

Wise was much more outspoken in the larger political arena.  Politics was always of great interest to the Reformer, so much so that it became necessary for his congregation to request his ceasing political references while preaching (Jick 136).  Wise strongly advocated the separation of church and state (Temkin 163, 164).  Nevertheless, he was twice nominated to campaign for office, locally in 1858, and as a state Democratic Senate candidate in 1863 (171-173).  He never did serve, however, being forced to decline nominations on account of his congregation’s disapproval (187).


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