Moses Elias Levy (1782–1854) was one of the antebellum South's most influential and interesting Jewish citizens. Only recently, however, have historians begun to appreciate his role as a social activist. C. S. Monaco discovered Levy's Plan for the Abolition of Slavery in the late 1990s, and now, in the first full-scale biography of Levy, Monaco completes the picture of his life and work.
Long known only as the father of David L. Yulee, the first Jew elected to the U.S. Senate, Levy appears here in all his many, sometimes contradictory roles: abolitionist and slave owner, utopian colonizer and former arms-dealer, religious reformer and biblical conservative. Each aspect of Levy's life and character comes into sharp relief as Monaco follows him from his affluent upbringing in a Sephardic Jewish household in Morocco—where his father was a courtier to the sultan—through his career as a successful merchant shipper, to his radical reform activities in Florida.
With his many residences abroad—in Morocco, Gibraltar, Danish Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Curacao, England—Levy virtually epitomized the Atlantic world, and Monaco escorts readers from country to country, considering Levy's accomplishments in each. The sole Jewish voice during the British abolitionist crusade, Levy was so extraordinary in his activism in London that some Protestants believed he heralded the millennium. In his search for equilibrium between Enlightenment thinking and pre-modern religion, Levy founded the United States' first Jewish communitarian settlement in the wilds of the East Florida frontier. As one of the region's largest landowners, he also reintroduced sugarcane as a viable crop, organized the first Florida development corporation, helped establish the earliest free public school, and served as the territory's first education commissioner.
In Moses Levy of Florida, C. S. Monaco offers a radical reappraisal of this complex and formerly underestimated figure, bringing to light for the first time the full and fascinating extent of his remarkable contributions to nineteenth-century America.
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