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Judah P. Benjamin
Judah P Benjamin crop.jpg
3rd Confederate States Secretary of State
In office
March 18, 1862 – May 10, 1865
President Jefferson Davis
Preceded by William Browne (acting)
Succeeded by Position abolished
2nd Confederate States Secretary of War
In office
September 17, 1861 – March 24, 1862
President Jefferson Davis
Preceded by LeRoy Walker
Succeeded by George Randolph
1st Confederate States Attorney General
In office
February 25, 1861 – November 15, 1861
President Jefferson Davis
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by Wade Keyes (acting)
United States Senator
from Louisiana
In office
March 4, 1853 – February 4, 1861
Preceded by Solomon Downs
Succeeded by John Harris (1868)
Personal details
Born
Judah Philip Benjamin

(1811-08-06)August 6, 1811
Christiansted, Danish West Indies (now U.S. Virgin Islands)
Died May 6, 1884(1884-05-06) (aged 72)
Paris, France
Political party Whig (before 1856)
Democratic (from 1856)
Spouse(s)
Natalie Bauché de St. Martin (m. 1833–1884)
Children 1
Education Yale University
Signature

Judah Philip Benjamin, QC (August 6, 1811 – May 6, 1884) was a lawyer and politician who was a United States Senator from Louisiana, a Cabinet officer of the Confederate States and, after his escape to the United Kingdom at the end of the American Civil War, an English barrister. Benjamin was the first Jew to hold a Cabinet position in North America and the first to be elected to the United States Senate who had not renounced his faith.

Benjamin was born to Sephardic Jewish parents from London, who had moved to St. Croix in the Danish West Indies when it was occupied by Britain during the Napoleonic Wars. Seeking greater opportunities, his family immigrated to the United States, eventually settling in Charleston, South Carolina. Judah Benjamin attended Yale College but left without graduating. He moved to New Orleans, where he read law and passed the bar.

Benjamin rose rapidly both at the bar and in politics. He became a wealthy planter and slaveowner and was elected to and served in both houses of the Louisiana legislature prior to his election by the legislature to the US Senate in 1852. There, he was an eloquent supporter of slavery. After Louisiana seceded in 1861, Benjamin resigned as senator and returned to New Orleans.

He soon moved to Richmond after Confederate President Jefferson Davis appointed him as Attorney General. Benjamin had little to do in that position, but Davis was impressed by his competence and appointed him as Secretary of War. Benjamin firmly supported Davis, and the President reciprocated the loyalty by promoting him to Secretary of State in March 1862, while Benjamin was being criticized for the rebel defeat at the Battle of Roanoke Island.

As Secretary of State, Benjamin attempted to gain official recognition for the Confederacy by France and the United Kingdom, but his efforts were ultimately unsuccessful. To preserve the Confederacy as military defeats made its situation increasingly desperate, he advocated freeing and arming the slaves late in the war, but his proposals were only partially accepted in the closing month of the war. When Davis fled the Confederate capital of Richmond in early 1865, Benjamin went with him. He left the presidential party and was successful in escaping from the mainland United States, but Davis was captured by Union troops. Benjamin sailed to Great Britain, where he settled and became a barrister, again rising to the top of his profession before retiring in 1883. He died in Paris the following year.

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