19th Century American Christian Evangelical Patronage of Jews and their Restoration in Palestine

"American Christian Evangelical Patronage of

Jews and their Restoration in Palestine, 1800 - 1916"

Senior Research Thesis, Rutgers University, May 2004
Critical Perspectives on the Middle East course, Professor Eric Davis

by J. Ethan Genauer

Scholars and politicians alike have commonly described America's ties with Israel as a "special relationship." (1) A massive number of speeches, articles, and books have confronted the subject of why the United States has exhibited such favor for Israel, what interests this relationship has stemmed from and functioned to solidify, and how it may be strengthened further or — if one happens to desire, for instance, an end to Israel occupation of the homes and lands of Palestinians — altered to reflect a less one-sided posture with respect to the politics of the Middle East. A few well-worn theories have generally sufficed as explanations for why the American-Israeli "special relationship" has developed and endured. Some observers attribute the partnership to the strength of America's Jewish lobby or the wealth and influence of its Jewish citizens. Others argue that the United States abides by a moral commitment to aid the victims of the Holocaust and protect a democratic state in a region where few exist. Perhaps most popular of all is the notion that geo-strategic synergy motivates the American-Israeli alliance. This "realist" position holds that, as a consequence of Israel's overwhelming military victory against three Arab states in 1967, United States leaders began to view Israel as an indispensable asset in the Cold War tensions of the era and a balance against the Soviet Union's deepening association with Syria and Egypt. More recently, after the catastrophe of 9/11/2001, the notion of Israel as a crucial partner in America's "war against terrorism" has gained ascendancy. Amidst all these well-substantiated alternative explanations, the factor of religion — despite increased attention to the phenomena of Christian Zionism since the early 1980s and occasional suppositions that President George W. Bush's seemingly unshakable support for Israel may spring from a messianic interpretation of Christianity — has generally not received a comparable degree of attention as a basis of America's "special relationship" with Israel.

Yet religious sentiment rests at the roots of American concern for Palestine. In the 19th century, when Western prognosticators were perenially anticipating the imminent collapse of the Ottoman Empire, speculation abounded as to what political and religious dynamics might fill the vacuum left behind by the Turks. Who would take control? Would Christianity supersede Islam? In a column published in the New York Times in 1854, a writer identified pseudonymously as "Viator del Occidente" asked those very questions:

The overthrow, revolution, convulsion, or partition — whatever you may choose to call it — of the Turkish power … is inevitable. There lies beyond it a great and momentous question … Who shall inherit this great Empire? What religion — what Government — what form of civilization shall prevail? … Shall these ancient lands, which once constituted the garden and glory of the earth, be delivered from Mahommedan Power only to be give up to another form of depotism? Another — though nominally Chiristian — persecuting Church? Another Oriental hierarchy? Another age of clouds and shadows? … Or, finally, shall that glorious, though fallen land, be delivered from all fetters, and allowed to grow up to its former height and strength, under the geneial influences of a free Church, free commerce, and free laws? Why should not the last be possible? (2)

By raising the possibility that "a free Church, free commerce, and free laws" might supplant the despotic institutions that apparently preveailed in the Orient under the Turks, del Occidente was articulating a uniquely American Christian perspective regarding the proojected outcome of Ottoman decline. Islam, he was certain, would cease to be dominant. In its place, del Occidente hypothesized, "the new Protestant Congregation, under the care of American missionaries" might outmaneuver the competing Christian churches then active in the Orient — Nestorians, Armenians, Greeks and Roman Catholics, according to him — and usher in a new age of liberty throughout the region. "I hope, I even believe, he concluded, "that this great inheritance will yet be given both to Christianity and to Freedom; — and that Jerusalem recovered to the cross — will be Jerusalem indeed." (3)

In del Occidente's vision of a transformed Orient, Jews garnered no consideration. Yet, by the final decade of the 19th century, hundreds of American Christians were expressing their support for a very different vision in which Jews played a starring role. Through the initiatve of William E. Blackstone, a Christian pro-Zionist who visited Palestaine and Syria in 1889 and said he had "carefully studied the conditions" of the Jews there and in Europe and America, they signed a petition to President Benjamin Harrison that, far from advocating an amplified American missionary presence in Jerusalem, called for the mass emigration of Jews from Russia to Palestine. (4) This petition, the "Blackstone Memorial" of 1891, urged the United States to arrange an international conference with the governments of Russia, Turkey and Europe in order to "consider the condition of the Israelites and their claims to Palestine as their ancient home." While the main text of the petition emphasixed the humanitarian argument that to "give Palestine back to them again" would be the ideal solution to the problem of the persecution of Russian Jewry, it also raised the religious allegation that "according to God's distribution of nations it is their home, an inalienable possession from which they were expelled by force" and called for Christian nations to "show kindness to Israel" by deliveing them there. In a supplemental private memo to President Harrison and Secretary of State James G. Blaine, however, Blackstone went much further towards specifying the prophetic Christian premillennial rationale — the belief that Jewish reoccupation of Palestine, as allegedly foretold in the Bible, constitutes an essential precondition of the Messiah's return — that underlied his initiative. There was abundant evidence, he said, that "the ever living God of Abraham, Isaaac and Jacob, is lefting up his hand to the Gentiles, to bring His sons and His daughters from far, that He may plant them again in their own land." Not since the days of Cyrus, Blacksone intimated, had "any mortal" been afforded such an exceptional opprtunity "to further the purposes of God concerning his ancient people." Finally, before adding his own signature, Blackstone reminded the two men that if they took personal interest in accomplishing the prophesied restoration of Jews to Palestine, they would thereby make themselves the beneficiaries of God's promise to Abraham that He will always "bless them that bless thee." (5)

Although President Harrison seems to have paid little attention to the petition, the fact that so many leading American Christians — including the mayors of Chicago, Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, the Presidents of First National Bank and International Bank, the Presidents of Wheaton College and Beloit College, and numerous pastors, ministers, and other religious figures — were willing to add their names to it raises a few fundamental questions, such as: How, when other narratives existed regarding a potential American role in a reconstituted Palestine, did the particular idea of Christian-sponsored Jewish emigration to the Holy Land come to gain such unprecedented support among a large number of influential American Christians in the 19th century? After all — no American advocates of the institutions of a "free Church, free commerce, and free laws" in the Orient were organizing equivalent campaigns in this era. Therefore, what factors spurred the rise of premillenialism? Furthermore — from Jewish Zionism's emergence in America in the 1880s until the foundation of the State of Israel in 1948, what impact, if any, did American Christian support for Jewish restoration to "their ancient home" exert on official American policy with respect to Palestine and the aspirations of Zionists? Were premillennialists such as Blackstone the only American Christians who lobbied for Jewish colonization, or did others with different theological dispositions exert a greater impact? Were any American political leaders influenced positively by the arguments or the political power of pro-Zionist Christians, or did they, like President Harrison, tend to politely ignore them? Finally — what patterns and standards, if any, did the premillennialism pioneered in the 19th century by American protestants establish for the post-1948 "special relationship" between American and Israel that persists today?

Two specific considerations frame the line of analysis this paper sets forth. First, historians have tended to trace the spread of premillennialism in the United States to the influnce of a certain British eschatologist, the dispensationalist John Nelson Darby, after the 1840s. This perspective seems, to an extent, premised upon the precedent that Ernest Sandeen, then a historian of religion at the University of Chicago, established in his classic, much-cited 1970 study The Roots of Fundamentalism: British and American Millenarianism, 1800 - 1930. In this book, Sandeen overturned traditional historical understandings of the "the fundamentalist controversy" of the 1920s, which tended to regard the fundamentalist movement against the teaching of evolution as an aberrant and isolated phenomena rooted in rural southern reaction to the bourgeois culture of urban-industrial modernism, by demonstrating its "large and quite unappreciated" connections to the predominantly urban northern American Christian "millenarian" movements of the late 1800s. (6) He argued that Darby's unique brand of premillenialism, with its emphasis on such innovative ideas as the "secret rapture" — the doctrine that there would be two "second comings," one when the true church would secretly leave the earth and the second when Christ would return in a public advent — revolutionized American Christian thought, especially when Darby visited the United States seven times between 1862 and 1877. In Sandeen's sole reference to the American Society for Meliorating the Condition of the Jews (ASCMJ), the organization for the conversion of Jews that Christians founded in New York City in 1820, he asserted that this group was conducted without the "millenarianism" that, he says, was so prominent in its British counterpart and forerunner, the London Society for promoting Christianity amongst the Jews. (LSPCJ). (7) Although Sandeen failed to clarify what the term "millenarianism" designates in the context of these evangelical Society, if he meant the dispensationalism that comprised the core of Carby's eschatology, then his assumption seems inaccurate. In fact, 1n 1840 in a report to the Board of Managers of ASCMJ, Joseph Samuel C.F. Frey, one of the Society's founders and its principal organizer throughout the 1820s, wrote that he had, ever since he converted to Christianity in the early 1800s, believed that Christianity and Judaism were not two different religions in direct opposition to each other but, rather, "one religion only" and "two different dispensations." (8) [Emphasis Frey's] In other words, although Darby thad not started to popularize the terminology of dispensationalism until the 1830s, here Frey admits that he had adhered to its central tenet — the ide that God revealed different but mutually consistent covenants to human in progressive ages of spiritual evolution, or dispensations — throughout his activist career. Therefore, the historical approach that dismisses the evangelical activism of Frey and ASCMJ as irrelevant to the premillenial movement that coalesced later in the century seems inadequate. While Darby's contributions to premillennialism's growth as a movement in the United States in the latter decades of the 1800s ere indeed substantial, I argue that studies of its rise must also take into account the American religious and cultural history that preceded his influence. In particular, I argue, American Christian expectations and advocacy of Jewish restoration accelerated in the early decades of the 1800s, in association with ASCMJ and with the establishment of a mission in Palestine by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. Then, from the 1830s until the 1860s, the idea of the literal restoration of Jews to Palestine emerged as a central pivot in a growing debate between premillennial and millennial American Protestant theoreticians. Finally, from the 1870s until after World War I, premillennialism became preeminent with America's conservative Protestant establishment. Therefore — in a fashion similar to Sandeen's reevaluation of the "fundamentalist controversy" of the 1920s, which reached a climax in the Scopes-Monkey trial, through his study of the premillennial movement of the late 1800s, this paper aims to reframe that movement, which reached one of its crescendos in Blackstone's pro-Zionist petition to President Harrison, through an analysis of the burgeoning American Christian interest in Jews that arose in the 1920s.

Second, some scholars of international relations have insightfully defined Amercia's "special relationship" with Israel as one of patronage. Israeli historian Yaacov Bar-Siman-Tov, for instance, argues in his essay "the United States and Israel since 1948: A Special Relationship?" that, after 1948, a "special patron-client relationship" develped between America and Israel that was characterized by "common political, ideological, security and strategic interests." (9) Bar-Siman-Tov's paradigm, however, valuable as it is at qualifying features of the post-1948 US-Israeli alliance, fails to account for common religious interests as a potential basis fo the relationship of patronage that he examines. He contests that, although the American Jewish community has played an important role in advancing the "special relationship,"the real essence of the relationship has existed independent from them and consists of "the rational foundation" of a commonality of political snd strategic interests between the two countries. (10) Perhaps because attention to the presumably "irrational" nature of Christian Zionish would complicate or undermine his thesis, Bar-Siman-Tov chooses to ignore it. Yet, since American Christians were, in fact, mobilizing for an American relationship of patronage with respect to Jewish emigration to Palestine as early as 1891, common religious interests between Christians and Jews seem to have played a much larger role in determining America's posture of patronage in relation to Israel than scholars such as Bar-Siman-Tov acknowledge. Thus, I ask, when did dynamics of patronage first become evident in the affiliations of American Christians with Jews, how did they develop during the years prior to Blackstone's petition, and how have they affected American tendencies towards patronage of Zionism and the State of Israel?

Although American Christian interest in contemporary Jewry first began to coalesce in the initial decades of the 1800s, fascination with the ancient Israelites of the Old Testament was a feature of American thought since the ealiest days of Puritan colonial settlement. The New England Puritans often referred to their exodus from England and migration across the Atlantic Ocean to a new land in biblical language that consciously echoed the old Testament's narration of the flight of the Hebrews from Egypt to their "Promised Land." The Puritans, too, regarded their escape from England's royal tyranny, their adherence to a pure faith, and their colonization of a free land as providential and divinely ordained events. Possessing great optimism that they could constitute a perfect Christian plity in the New World, they embraced the idea of forming an ideal "city on a hill," a "New Jerusalem" or "New Zion," in America. (11) A small number of early Puritans, such as the Congregationalist pastor Increase Mather in his seminal book The Mystery of Israel's Salvation, expressed hope for the conversion and restoration of Jews in relation to the expectation of the imminent return of Jesus. But such premillennialism was not a prevailing creed of Puritan theology. (12) Rather, the dominant Puritan concern was for building the kingdom of God in America, and to this purpose they identified with and drew parallels from the experiences fot the tribes of Israel and moral lessons from the Word of God that, they were sure, was communicated in the Old Testament. (13) A foremost lesson was the price of failing to uphold God's command, for, like the Israelites, they saw themselves as heirs to a special covenant with God, a "Chosen People" with a unique spiritual destiny of their own. The Jews, the deemed, had forsaken the obligations that their covenant demanded and thus incurred God's wrath. The Purtians, in contrast, intended to keep their end of the covenant through their formation of a "holy commonwealth" in accordance with Scripture. (14)

The Puritan understanding of themselves as "keepers of the covenant" constituted an indirect but important link to the rise of missionary evangelism that started to occur in America in the last years of the 18th century and soon catalyzed the growth of American Christian awareness of contemporary Jewry in the early 1800s. In New England, a particular form Puritanism called Congregationalism took root that emphasized congregational unity through the creation of a "church covenant." In the founding of New England churches, each congregation established their own church covenant — a statement of common beliefs and responsibilities — which provided cohesion to members and the basis for the authority of the church. Periodically, to cement the wider "communion of churches," Congregationalists also organized "synods" to clarify disputed issues of faith, determine the proper methods of worship and church government, react against the corruption of any particular church, and give direction to the Congregationalist community of churces as a whole. (15) In the 1600s, such practices aroused concern and codemnation in England, as Presbyterian Puritanism gained political strength there and its leaders worried that Congregationalists across the Ocean were becoming too independent and "Separatist." (16) But in the 1700s, a transatlantic spirit of unity again began to predominate, and American Congregationalists developed a growing conception of their "covenant" as connecting them with a global community of Christians. In the early 1740s, evangelical ministers in Scotland began to coordinate days of fasting for the revival of religion, and in 1744 they invited American and English churches to join them in an international "United Concert for Prayer," through wich congregations and individuals would set regular monthly and quarterly times to simultaneously pray for a universal revival. In America and England, influential Christian leaders endursed the innovation, as the United Concert stimulated an impression that a truly extraordinary surge of religious devotion was occurring on a massive scale. (17) In the 1760s and 1770s, as American settlers revolted against the rule of England and the transatlantic relationship soured, this movement waned; but in 1784, it was revived by a group of English Baptists who issued a fresh call to prayer. In the 1790s, acting consciously in the spirit of the Concert and the latest prayer call, English evangelists founded two new missionary organizations, the Baptist Missionary Society to transport the Gospel to Africa and Asia and the multi-denominational London Missionary Society, that trilled many American Christians. (18) Beofre long, similar organizations sprouted in Congregationalist New England that gave institutional encouragement to a new kind of religious professional, the "evangelist at large" who would spread the Holy Spirit in the new settlements of the American frontier and teach the Gospel to native American "heathens" who had never yet even heard the name of Christ. (19)

In 1798, Hartford Congregationalists established the Connecticut Missionary Society (CMS). (20) Betwen 1798 and 1803, a series of revivals swept across New England and parts of the frontier that effected an influx of material contributions to CMS, including cash, stocks and bonds, real estate, and personal valuables such as jewelry. (21) Witnessing such enthusiasm among American Christians for missionary evangelism prmpted activists in other states to emulate the successful formula. In 1799 the Massachusetts Missionary Society was founded; between 1801 and 1807 missionary societyies were organized in al the remaining New England states; and during the next few decades dozens more were created throughout the United States. (22) After their formation, one of the first projects of many of these groups was the creation of a subscription-based publication in order to inform members and supporters abuot the progress of the missionary movement and to generate income. A trans-Atlantic communications network thus began to flourish that circulate d"religious intelligence," conveying news of the notable Christian events and achievements of the day — like domestic revivals or foreign missions — that were flourishing on either side of the Anglo-America divide. (23)

American Christian interest in the conversion of Jews thus developed in the context of this spreading missionary movement and the trans-Atlantic grapevine that fuled it. In American evangelist periodicals, news of the activities of Revreend Samuel Joseph C.F. Frey, a converted Jew who specialized in the evangelization of his unconverted brethren in London, began to regularly appear. As early as 1805, The Panoplist carried a report about this "most interesting preacher." (24) In 1806, a number of the publications, including Connecticut Evangelical Magazine and The Massachusetts Missionary Magazine, printed an extract from a Boston divinity student's letter from London that stated his "pleasure to inform" his friend in Massachusetts about the "increasing attention" to religion that was occurring on the other side of the Atlantic and, in particular, about the efforts of Frey:

There is no in London a converted Jew, by the name of Frey, whom doubtless you have heard of, who is preaching the gospel to his deluded countrymen, and with considerable success. Many young Jews steal from their rigid parents, at the hazard of their lives, to hear him preach … The good people here expect much from his exertions. He is a man of great abilities, and of the most fervent piety. (25)

Throughout the following decade, these publications regularly updated their readers about Frey's progress, especially after his initiation of a new missionary organization that had split from the LMS, The London Society for prmoting Christianity Amongst the Jews, in 1809. Passages from LSPCJ's annual reports were frequently reproduced, and sometimes American visitors to England reported journalistically about the organization's meetings and projects. Frey's autobiography, The converted Jew; or memoirs of the life of Joseph Samuel C.F. Frey, who was born a Jew, but is now a minister of the Gospel in London, published in Boston in 1815, received sympathetic attention, although at least one reviewer regarded its literary quality as sup par. In its review of the book, Vermont Evangelical Magazine asserted that, "for a long period, no individual of the Jews, who has embraced Christianity, has excited, in the religious world, a livelier interest, or given rise to warmer hopes, than Mr. Frey." Thus, in the first decades of the nineteenth centruy, American Christian readers were subjected to an increasing flow of information about the possibility and desirability of converting Jews to a saving belief in Christ in the contemporary age.

Gradually, some American Christians realized that they could replicate in the United States the kind of evangelical movement targeting Jews that Frey and the LSPCJ had originated in England. The Christian Herald, a newsletter published weekly in New York City by John E. Caldwell, a founder of the American Bible Society and later ASMCJ's treasurer, documented the emergence of a distinct American Christian evangelical movement for Jewish conversion to belief in Christ. The Christian Herald, like many American Christian publications inthe early 18900s, filled its pages with "missionary intelligence" gleaned from the letters and reports of Christians laboring to evangelize non-believers in America and around the world and, almost from its inception, displayed special interest in the conversion of Jews. In July 1816, less than four months after publishing heir first issue, the editors reported the formation in June "by a number of ladies in Boston," The Society of Boston and Vicinity, for promothing Christianity among the Jews. (26) In August, in short column entitled "Remarks on the Jews," a writer identified as "Philo Israel" exhorted Christians to "unite in a frank and affectionate appeal" to cure "the sons of circumcision" of their unbelief in Jesus, and thus to speed the day when God would "take away their reproach and gather them with great mercies." (27) On September 7, The Christian Herald reprinted portions of a tract recently published in Boston, "A Concise Account of L.S.P.C.J," and promised to describe their intent "to devise a plan for attempting the conversion of the Jews who live among us" in a subsequent issue. (28) In November and December, The Christian Herald reprinted extracts from LSPCJ's 7th and 8th Reports and announced the formation of another women's organization for the conversion of Jews in Medfield, MMA, which would disburse the income it accumulated to the Boston Female Society. Less than a decade after the foundation of LSPCJ in England, a derivative movement for the evangelization of Jews was beginning to materialize in America.

On January 11, 1817, waiting until their ideas had taken "a systematic and settled form, The Christian Herald finally revealed a plan to engage "Christian zeal and benevolence in the important work of attempting to evangelize the Israelites living among us." (29) They had, they announced, assisted in the establishment of a new organization: American Society for Evangelizing the Jews (ASEJ). While they lamented that American Christians had, until then, done nothing "to recover and restore to the fold of its Saviour that once distinguished, now dispersed, but still wonderful people," they revealed that the new initiative actually possessed a history. In December 1813, they wrote, a member of the Reformed Dutch Church of New York City had presented to its Consistory an appeal to the Reverend, asking him to consider taking concrete steps toward the conversion of Jews. Three weeks later, Reverend Classis appointed a Committee to research the issue. When the Committee issued its report more than two years later on September 18, 1816, it did so in the "providential" presence of the English evangelist Frey who "had recently and unexpectedly arrived in this country." (30) With Frey's vocal encouragement, the Commiteee resolved to implement one of the three proposals it had prepared, and to continue its work by expanding into a general Society. On November 6, following up on this resolution, a multi-denominational gathering of Christians decided unanimously to appoint a new Committee empowered to draft a Constitution and an inaugural Address to the public. On December 30, 1816, ASEJ was formally established, and its Constitution and Address ordered to be disseminated around the country.

Although at least two publications, The Christian Herald and The Religious Intelligencer, promptly published these two documents, they do not appear to have made a major splash in American Christian media or received widespread circulation. For a few years, American evangelical publications generally continued to focus their attention regarding the conversion of Jews on efforts originating in England. For more than two years — perhaps because other, more universalist American missionary initiatives such as the United Foreign Missionary Society, founded in the summer of 1817, monopolized evangelical resources and zeal (31) — ASEJ languished in inactivity. Nevertheless, consideration of this early manifestation of American evangelical interest in Jews illuminates the process by which a much more active and visible movement emerged in the 1820s. According to ASEJ's Constitution, the group's "sole object" was "to make every possible and proper exertion … to bring the Jews to the acknowledgment of Jesus Christ of Nazareth as the true. Messiah." m(32) The Address, signed by Philip Milledoler, provide no more specificity about how ASEJ would prosecute its goals of converting Jews but, instead, expounded broadly about the organization's philosophy. Milledoler, ASEJ's President and a prominent theologian who later reigned as the President of Rugers University from 1825 to 1840 even as he continued to support efforts to evangleize Jews, sounded many of the themes that would continue to condition American evangelical thinking about Jews in the years to come. The Christians of the Untied States, he asserted, were uniquely positioned to be the instruments of God's salvation to the Jews, because American Jews "have enjoyed equal privileges with their fellow citizens" — thus, their prejudice against Christians must have softened, and they would be less "intractable and unyilding." (33) He argued that, although American Christians had never persecuted Jews, they owed Jews reparation of the depredations they had suffered "at the hands of our forefathers" as well as gratitude for their part in leading humanity away from idolatry, preserving the "precious and uncontaminated" records of God , and above all, nurturing the soil in which Christianity had blossomed. "Can we behold a Jew without emotions of compassion," he asked, "or contemplate his situation without pain?" Let no one forget, he emphasized, that Jesus had labored among the Jews, and their restoration would pave the way towards the conversion of the great mass of the world's Gentiles. The millennial period that the conversion of the Jews would herald, he said, "may not occur in one day," as its time "is a secret with God — but he decreed that "the time of Israel's restoration is at hand … [and] we are urged to prompt and vigorous exertions to achieve it." Milledoler's Address demonstrates that, from the earliest days of American Christian efforts to evangelize Jews, the enterprise was motivated by the conviction that the restoration of the Jews was "indissolubly connected" with the final redemption of the world that would inevitably occur at the time of the Second Coming of Christ. (34) Yet, as The Biblical Perpertory and Princeton Review noted a few decades later in its review of NYC University Professor of Hebrew George Bush's 1844 diessertation, The Valley of Vision: or the Dry Bones of Israel Revived — An attempted proof of the Restoration and Conversion of the Jews, "The restoration of Israel is an ambiguous expression, which may either denote the spiritual reunion of God's ancient people with the church, or their literal recovery of the Land of Promise." (35) The Christian leaders of ASEJ held to the millennial understanding of Jewish "restoration" as a spiritual event predicated upon the conversion of the Jews to their acceptance of Christ as the Messiah; only later, during the 1820s, would the premillennial conception of "restoration" as the literal return of the Jews to Palestine begine to become dominant among American Christian evangelicals.

The idea of the literal resotration of Jews to Palestine was, nevertheless, hardly absent from American Christian discourse in the 1810s. Since the early 1800s, some Americans had construed the possibility of the restoration of Jews to Palestine in the day's contemporary religious and political events. In particular, Napeoleon's commencement of the Sanhedrin in 1806, concession of civil equality to Jews in France, and ongoing wars of conquest deemed as possible signs of his desire to, like a modern Cyrus, occupy Palestine and restore it to the Jews. In the middle years of the 1810s, an increased number of articles about the Holy Land seem to have started to appear in America's evangelical and secular press. Usually short introductions to the history and present affairs of the area encompassing "the Holy Land," they tended to delineate sharply between the magnificent past but present dereliction of "this celebrated country." (36) In a typical example in 1816, the New England Missionary said about Jerusalem:

Its glory is now departed. The ancient inhabitants, who were Jews, are now scattered among the nations, and are, to this day, an astonishing proof in favor of scripture prophecy … This desolated country is now inhabitated byt Turks, Arabs and wreched Christians … The government is despotic, the Turks are lazy, the Arabs are robbers, and the Christians ho live among them have but little to expect but persecution and oppression. The darkness of Mahometanism has spread a dismal gloom upon the land, which in the days of our Savior's ministry, was visited with divine radiance. (37)

Such a binary line of reasoning led inevitably to a predictable deduction: If the Jews had lived in Palestine when the country was blessed, and now they were gone and the place was cursed, then would not thier return inaugurate a new radiant age? The article closed with precisely such a conclusion:

The time advances when [Judea and Jerusalem] shall cease to be trodden down by the Gentiles' when the blinded jews shall look by faith on him whom they have pierced, repent of their wickedness and be forgiven; when the y shall be returned to their own land and desolate city and worship God in his holy mount at Jerusalem. Then shall Turks and infidels be subdued and the Redeemer extend through the world his vast and glorious dominions.

At the 19th century progressed, may american Christians became increasingly convinced that the time was truly advancing when the four basic events this article prohesied — the conversion of the Jews, their restoration to Palestine, the subduing of the land's "heathen" inhabitants, and the arrival of the Messiah — would actually occur. By the final decade of the century, premillennialism, a system of beliefs that embraced all these premises, approximated a mass movement. But before the 1820s, while such ideas were occasionally represented in a formlaic fashion, and a few authors wrote more extensively about them, (38) few Americans paid any particular attention to them. Contemporary Palestine was not yet the fixture in American consciousness that it would later become.

While the idea of restoring Jews to Palestine was thus already beginning to gain increased currency in America in the 1810s, a decisive factor that spurred premillenialism's rise to the forefront of the imagination of many American Christians as the establishment of a mission in Palestine by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions in the 1820s. In 1818, the ABCFM designated Levi Parsons and Pliny Fish, two graduates of new Haven's Congregationalist Andover Theological Seminary, as America's first missionaries to Jerusalem. On November 7, The Christian Herald declared it "most proper that such a mission should be begun by the American people," because 'we alone, of all the nations of the earth … have never been engaged in persecuting the Jews." (39) One month later, it published a page and a half of verse that celebrated the nomination of Parsons and Fish to "lift devotion's eye" over "desolation's realm" in Palestine, a land where "once the flowers of Eden flung their sweets" but that now lay in gloom as God's favor had moved "far to the west." (40) The poem, in a fashion similar to the questions that del Occidente posed in the New York Times thirty-five years later, inquired why a golden age could not again flourish in the East: "Shall no second Paradise here rise? Nor second choir angels wing the air? Nor second Star announce the rising Sun?" Like del Occidente, and in accord with the narrative of America as a redeeming nation that dominated the 19th century, (41) this poet envisioned a providential role for America's missionaries. But, whereas del Occidente juxtaposed America's "free" version of Protestantism against decrepit Islam and the rival "hierarchical" churches of the East, this poem mythologized the enterprise of missionaries Parsons and Fish as a special calling to the jews, delcaring that Providence was shining:

Some rays of bursting splendor midst the gloom:
She sees two youth, of glowing, fearless soul,
Gird on the burnished panoply of heaven,
The destined pioneers to Israel's tribes
To call them from their wide dispersions home.

After this appeal for Jewish restoration, the poem concluded with a vision of a transfromed Orient no less enthusiastic and insistent than del Occidente's that sacralized Parsons' and Fisk's mission as a step towards the inauguration of a glorious new reality in the East:

Despair, away! Though dark the moral night,
And chill the blast, where milk and honey flowed,
And where the glory subterranean lies: —
Soon Palestine shall hear the potent voice;
Let there be light: from chaos shall emerge
A fairer, holier, more enchanting scene
Then ever smiled beneath an Eastern sky.

The different visions of these two anonymous 19th century American Christians epitomized alternative approaches to a similar objective of redeeming the degraded Orient through the agency of American missionaries. But if, as one possibility, the Christian Herald's poet represented an isolated voice, and Parsons and Fish did not share the goal of calling "Israel's tribes … from their wide dispersions home," then the search for proximate causes of the ultimate preference of many American Christians in the 19th century for the vision of restoring Jews to their ancestral homeland in Palestine would need to probe elsewhere in America's culture and history. If, however, the two missionaries held this view as their own, as conveyed it to their fellow Christians in America with any eloquence or regularity, then they may have contributed vitally to its transformation from one that was only sporadically represented in the America's press in the 1810s to its gradual rise to a position of predominance in the premillennialist rhetoric of the late 1800s. What, then, were the attitudes of Parsons, Fisk, and the organization that commissioned them in relation to the restoration of Jews to Palestine?

On October 31, 1819, a few days before they embarked to their initial destination of Malta en route to Palestine, both Fish and Parsons preached sermons at churches in Boston that, the Boston Recorder reported, "were heard with the deepest interest by those who were present." (42) In his sermon, Pliny Fish revealed no signs that he construed his journey to Palestine as a special mission to restore the Jews. He spoke at length about the "interesting classes of men" — Mahommedans and Jews, and Roman Catholic, Greek, Armenian and Syrian Christians — that inhabited Judea and detailed "the most vigorous efforts" he expected would have to be made to enlighten each of them "of the true spirit of the Gospel." (43) In his discussion, Fisk actually devoted more attention to the Muslims and Christians of Palestine than to its Jews. Insofar as he spoke about Jews, he did so with the intention of converting them and never implied that their literal restoration to Palestine was a goal of the mission. After his sermon, over $300 was collected for the mission from those in attendance, and then the Secretary of the Prudential Committee of the ABCFM presented a set of "instructions" to the two missionaries. (44) In his speech, the Secretary warned Fisk and Parsons against the temptation of identifying too personally with the storied physical sites where patriarchs, prophets, apostles and martyrs had lived, labored and died, lest they lose sight of their spiritual obligations. If they found that the time was not opportune for the establishment of a mission in Jerusalem, he imparted, they could turn their attempt to "a place less infested with jealousies and of greater salubrity," such as Bethlehem, or anyplace else to where Providence might direct them. In reference to the jews, the Secretary stated that they "have been for ages an awful sign to the world … but the period of their tremendous dereliction … is drawing to a close." He declared that "they will return — but only to the mercy of God through their acceptance of Christ, not to the land of Palestine itself. (45) Whereas Christian evanglists throughout the 19th century frequently conflated the distinct ideas of the conversion of the Jews and their literal return to Palestine together, neither Fisk nor the ABCFM exhibited such premillennialism in these pre-departure communications. Rather, they relted an undesrstanding of the mission as being strictly limited to those, including the Jews but not specifically targeting them, who already inhabited Palestine.

The sermon that Levi Parsons delivered on the same day in a different church in Boston, however, was strikingly different. Unlike his partner and the Secretary of the organization that had commissioned him, who had not even addressed the possibility of Jewish restoration, Parsons devoted his entire sermon to the subject. He argued in his sermon, entitled "The Dereliction and Restoration of the Jews," that Scripture prophesied the literal return of Jews to their Holy Land, whereupon they would "be again a peculiar people, a royal priesthood, a chosen generation." (46) The Mohammedans of the region, he charged, had been "a tremendous scourge to the children of Israel." They had filled their Koran with curses against them, armed their disciples to destroy them, "obliged parents to instill mortal enmity into the minds of the children, besieged their cities, demolished their synagogues, drove them into exile, and forbade them to return upon pain of death." Yet despite these sufferings, plus the awful persecutions of Christians in Europe, the jews had retained their separate identity, "as a standing monument of the veracity of God." Parsons vehemently objected to Christians who interpreted the langauge of the Bible's promises of Jewish restoration as figurative — after all, he insisted, the prophecies relating to their dispersion and captivity as aliens in foreign lands had been literally fulfilled, so how could anyone selectively understand those regarding their return as merely metaphorical? Yet, he argued, the jews would not achieve their restoration to Palestine by themselves, for this material event was linked inextricably to their spiritual "restoration to the privileges of the sacred Gospel." Thus, they needed "the benevolence of the Gentiles — their prayers and their charity — in order for their restoration to become reality. More specifically, they needed bo be "furnished with the word of God, and with the instruction of the Missionaries." In this sacred transaction, Parsons delegated to himself and Fisk a special role:

Our assistance now is particularly solicited. Many of the Jews are willing to receive the New Testament. Conversions to Christianity are rapidly increasing. A general movement is taking place. Every eye is fixed upon Jerusalem. There they believe the Messiah will come … And if our Savior should revive his work within those consecrated walls, the good resulting would, probably, surpass all calculation. The dispersed abroad, fixing their attention upon this event, might renounce their fatal delusion, and receive him, was was crucified on the calvary, as the Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world. (47)

Parsons, therefore, in a manner similar to The Christian Herald's anonymous poet, considered the first American mission to Palestine as a special prject to recall the Jews from their Diaspora abroad to the Holy Land. He and Fisk were, in Parsons' imagination, emissaries of Jewish restoration who, by preaching the word of Christ within "those consecrated walls" of Jerusalem, would shine a light that Jews abroad could not fail to notice and respond to. This understanding of the mission as the vanguard of Jewish restoration to Palestine would, however, prove to have a very different influence than the one Parsons expressed in his pre-departure sermon. Throughout the 1820s, letters and reports from the Palestine mission were widely reprinted in American media. As a result, the mission of Parsons and Fisk would ultimately have a much greater impact upon American Christisns than on either Jews living in Jerusalem or those "disopersed abroad." In the 1820s, the ABCFM's Palestine mission was one key cause of escalated American Christian speculation about Jewish restoration to Palestine.

In the meantime, Joesph Samuel C.F. Frey, the Jewish convert from London, had again arrived in America. Soon after his arrival early in 1819, he received a letter from another British Jewish convert, Mr. D. Marc, who proposed the establishment in America of a "Christian Jewish settlement" as an antidote to the "many difficulties in the way of a Jew, by which the very first idea in favor of Christianity is arrested in the progress." (48) According to Marc, all of these difficulties — such as "the ungodly lives of nominal Christians," the lack of compassion of sincere Christians for "this afflicted nation," the fear potential converts might possess of sepratating from "a nation whose distinct and lasting existence … God had so clearly promised," and their economic dependence upon their Jewish brethren — might be remedied by forming a settlement for Jewish converts in America. "In that extensive country," he asked "where every year colonies of poor people meet with assistance and encouragement, might not a similar favor be shown to Abraham's seed, who are everywhere else oppressed and persecuted?" Therefore, he continued, would Frey be willing to form "a society of proper persons" to execute such an undertaking? If so, he pledged, Frey cuold expect support from the LSPCJ, as well as from other European countries, especially Germany, "where many true Christians" and"persons of great influence" were ready to assist American Christian efforts to found a colony for Jewish converts "with all their power." (49) With such an assurance of the readiness of European Christians to collaborate in the endeavor, could Frey refrain from moving forward with Marc's proposition?

As it turned out, Frey could not resist the attractiveness of the idea. After pondering and praying over the issue, in April 1819 Frey decided to show Marc's letter to a meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Society for Promoting Learning and Religion in Morris County, NJ. The Society authorized Frey to invite Marc to come to America, at its own expense, in order to act as an Agent in realizing his plan. After Marc turned down the invitation, due to his prior commitments with the LSPCJ, Frey joined with Rev. Stephen Grover from Caldwell, NJ in forming a Committee "to consult with Ministers and other gentlemen, and especially with … Dr. Broudinot, on the expediency of forming a Society for the purpose of Colonizing and Evangelizing the Jews." (50) Dr. Elias Boudinot, a retired statesman who had served as a U.S. Represenative from 1789 to 1795 and as president of the Continental Congress in 1783, had long harbored a unique fascination with Jews. In 1815, at the age of 75, he published his book A Star in the West; or, A Humble Attempt to Discover the Long Lost Tribes of Israel, Preparatory to Their Return to Their Beloved City, Jerusalem, in which he attempted to prove that Native American tribes were Israel's descendants. After obtaining the endorsements of a few Christian leaders in Burlington and Princeton, NJ, Frey returned to Burlington on November 25, 1819 to meet with Boudinot, who received him "with the greatest cordiality and friendship." The next day, in a letter to Frey, Boudinot expressed his recommendation that the late American Society for Evangelizing the Jews should be revived and then immediately apply to New York's Legislature for a Charter of Incorporation. Following Boudinot's advice, Frey convened a meeting of ministers from various denominations in New York City for the purpose of resurrecting the old Society. Two meetings later in February — the symbolic date 2 - 20 - 1820 — the American Society for Colonizing and Evangelizing the Jews (ASCEJ) was formally established, officers designated, a Constitution adopted, and Frey appointed to apply to the Legislature of New York for a Charter.

On February 26, 1820, "at a time when an unchristian spirit of hatred and persecution against the descendants of Abraham is spreading on the continent of Europe," The Christian Herald announced the formation of the new Society. (52) One week later, The Christian Herald published ASCEJ's Constitution, in which Article II determined the group's purpose:

The object of this Society shall be to invite and receive, from any part of the world, such Jews as do already profess the Christian Religion, or are desirous to receive Christian Instruction, to form them into a Colony, and to furnish them with the ordinaces of the Gospel, and with such employment in the Colony as shall be assigned them; but none shall be received, unless he comes well recommended for morals and industry, and without charge to this Society, and both his reception and continuance in the Colony shall be at all times under the discretion of the Directors.

As early as 1820, a number of American Christians were thus beginning to mobilize towards the formation of relationships of patronage with Jews. Whereas the Society that Frey and others had formed in 1816 had not detailed how the general goal of evangelizing Jews might be achieved, this new group was constituted with the specific strategy of sponsoring the settlement of Jews on Christian-owned land in America, in order to furnish an environment where a minimum of obstacles would hinder their conversion. Would this initiative enjoy any greater success than the last, which had, despite President Milleoler's call in his Address for "prompt and vigorous exertions" to effect Israel's restoration, quickly faded into inactivity? In April 1820, Frey received a mixed blessing from New York's Legislature. While ASCEJ's Constitution was accepted as it was written, some members of the Legislature requested that the group's name should be changed to reflect a less provocative intent and avoid blurring the lines that separate church and state. Submitting to this stipulation, Frey agreed to change the group's name to the American Society for Meliorating the Conditions of the Jews (ASCMJ) and on April 14, 1820, the Society was incorporated.

Although little information seems to survive about the first two years of ASMCJ's existence, the Society soon began to flourish. Two factors seem primarily responsible for the group's success. First, the Society's strategy of settling Jewish converts from Europe on Christian land in the United States was attractive to many American Christians and appeared to have international support. With this concrete plan for evangelizing Jews, ASMCJ was able to appeal to the general evangelical fervor that prevailed among many American Christians with much greater effectiveness than its predecessor ASEJ. In a publication that seems to be the Society's first public communication after its foundation, ASMCJ reported that, "to the present time, the Directors have been principally occupied in opening a correspondence, and preparing the way for future operations." The Society had, it revealed, been in contact with a "benevolent" German nobleman, Count vond der Recke, who for many years had labored to "promote a more rapid extension of Christianity among the Jews." In 1822, the Count sent one of his prodigies, a young Jewish convert named Jadowinsky, to America to work with ASCMJ as a "special Agent." The correspondence between the Count and ASMCJ seems likely to have been initiated by Frey's friend Marc, who was laboring at this time in Frankfurt, Germany as an evangelist among the Jews. In a letter to the Board of ASMCJ translated from German by Philp Milledoler, Jandowinsky wrote that "the founding of Christian Hebrew colony, which may perhaps best be done in America, is the most effectual measure that can be devised to promote the eternal welfare of that people, and to lay the foundation of their national conversion." After describing some productive efforts to convert Jews that were occurring in Europe, he elaborated about the many benefits that such a colongy would offer to reformed Jews, and finally ensured that ASMCJ could expect "liberal aid" from the LSPCJ as well as the Bible Societies of Germany and Holland and, indeed, "from every part of Europe" once the colony was established. (55) For American Christians who may not have trusted that ASMCJ's goal of creating a Hebrew Christian colony was more than a wildly improbable fantasy, such promises of international sympathy and solidarity must have provided much-needed inducement to participate in and contribute money to the enterprise. American Christians could thus feel that their patronage of Jewish converts was part of a burgeoning trans-Continental movement.

A second reason for ASCMJ's success was the tireless organizing of Joseph Samuel Frey. In 1823, ASMCJ established a newsletter called Israel's Advocate (IA) that was produced monthly until 1827. In most issues, IA published a table of the donations Frey collected during his evangelical travels around America's eastern population centers. Through these accounts, a fairly comprehensive record exists of where Frey went, who gave him donations, and how much he collected. In the first recorded period, for example, from September 15th to November 6, 1822, Frey received approximately $950 during his travels around New York and England. Most of the listings mention only the precise amount of the donation, the town where it occurred, and the last name and first initial of the individual who contributed it. A few of the entries, however, provide more revealing information. In Hadley, MA, Frey collected a small sum from a "Jewish Colonization Society," and in the same town he received twenty dollars at a weekly prayer meeting. Frey's collections transcended Christian denominations. In December 1822 in Philadelphia, he received over $600 from eight Presbyterian congregations, two Reformed Dutch churches, one Reformed Presbyterian church, one German Reformed church, three Baptist churches, and a Methodist academy. In the same month, a "Juvenile Jews Society" in Portland, ME gave ASMCJ $18, and five Auxiliary, or local, Societies, — four of them female — contributed $255 altogether. Sometimes, the records indicate, Frey collected donations at monthly concerts of prayer, which were still popular in the 1820s. Periodically, he ventured into the American South — in the first six months of 1823 he journeyed through Maryland, Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Georgia, where he "met with the usual liberality and friendship." (58) On this trip, he reported in Israel's Adovcate, he traveled 2,365 miles, preached 196 times, formed 51 Auxiliary Societies, and collected about $4600. Despite this windfall to ASCMJ's Treasury, Frey was not satisfied — he complained that his personal expenses had succeeded his expectations, he sometimes was unable to find anyplace where he could preach or collect for two or three days, he had to sell his horse at a loss, and an "unparalleled stagnation of business" had created a "great scarcity of money." Even with such setbacks, Frey seems to have had great success with his fundraising. Throughout his travels, he collected many thousands of dollars, and supporters sent thousands more directly to ASCMJ. This seems to indicate that ASMCJ generated considerable enthusiasm among American Christians in the early years of its existence.

Even more important, perhaps, than the amount of money Frey collected was the number of Auxiliary Societies he organized. As well as providing a regular source of income for the parent Society, they established the sense that an incredible movement was building momentum. On May 27, 1822, the first Auxiliary was formed in Jamaica, NY. On June 26, 1823, the Jamaica Auxiliary convened a "numerously attended" meeting in a Presbyterian church, in celebration of its first Anniversary. The group's secretary, Henry C. Sleight, submitted an account of the event to Israel's Advocate in which he expressed their delight that "the parent Society … in the space of one year, numbers over one hundred and fifty Auxiliaries." (60) This "simultaneous impulse," he said, "indicated the unparalleled success" which had attended ASMCJ's operations. The "suddenness and intensity" of the group's growth, the "almost universally favorable impression" it had created, and the disappearance of opposiiton to its aims, he continued, "all proclaim the hand of God in its favor." In 1824, ASMCJ published a list of 189 Auxiliary Societies, 120 of which had contributed income within the past year. The geographical distribution of ASMCJ's Auxiliaries demonstrates that the group had supporters all along the East Coast, but that it enjoyed the most success in the Northeast and New England. More than half of the Auxiliaries were located in just three states — 35 in Connecticut, 33 in Massachusetts, and 31 in New York. New Jersey was next with 22 Auxiliaries, then New Hampshire with 15, Virginia 13 and Pennsylvania 10. Vermont, South Carolina, North Carolina, Maryland, the District of Columbia, Delaware and Georgia rounded out the list with 7, 5, 4, 4, 3, 2 and 2. A sizeable number of the Auxiliaries were female, and these contributed some of the largest donations. In Vermont, all but two of the Societies were female; in Connecticut, fifteen female Societies donated over $1100 among themselves; and of all the Auxiliaries, only three donated more than $250 — from Hartford, New Haven, and Philadelphia, each female. This testifies, in part, to Frey's skill at communicating with women, to whom he reasoned that it was their Christian duty to help their Jewish sisters, who were oppressed by their religion. In Philadelphia, for example, Frey addressed the women, "of whom there were a considerable number," contrasting "the present degraded state of the Jewesses with the knowledge, piety and zeal of those mentioned in the Bible" and showing that "it is the Gospel which has raised Christian females to that unparalleled degree of knowledge, happiness and usefulness so conspicuously displayed in our day." (62)

Not all females who were interested in converting Jews, hoever, wanted to work with ASCMJ. At least one local organization, The Female Society of Boston and vicinity for promoting Christianity among the Jews (FSBPCJ). refused to affiliate with ASMCJ. In 1816, FSBPCJ became America's first evangelical group to focus specifcally on the conversion of Jews, and until 1822 disbursed "a considerable part" of their income to its parent Society in London, LSPCJ. In 1822, FSBPCJ received a communication from ASMCJ that invited the women to relinquish their independent existence and become another auxiliary Society of itself. At about the same time, they also received a letter from Pliny Fisk, the missionary in Palstine, who expressed his opinion that they could spend their money more wisely if they used it to support "a missionary to this part of the world, whose sole object shall be to labor among the Jews." After considering both offers, FSBPCJ resolved to accept Fisk's proposal and reject ASMCJ. "We esteem it an honor," FSBPCJ reported in a "Circular Letter" to its auxiliaries, "to be permitted to send forth the first American missionary to Palestine exclusively to the seed of Abraham." At the same time, FSBPCJ objected to the ASMCJ's methods of converting Jews. While they deemed the conversion of Jews as "an object precious in the sight of every holy being" and "connected with the best interests of the whole human family," they believed that the optimum strategy towards achieving this was sending missionaries abroad rather than settling Jewish converts in America.

In conjunction with the numerous other evangelical societies that had recently formed, ASCMJ fomented the impression that a marvelous revival of religion was afoot. "Bible Societies, Missionary Societies, Education Societies, and Jews' Societies, which are filling the Christian horizon like so many morning stars," one supporter wrote, "proclaim the approach of the glorious sun of righteousness, which is to fill the whole world with the knowledge of God." (63) In such an atmosphere of messianic expectation, it was perhaps inevitable that ASMCJ aroused more hopes than it could ever fulfill. In December 1823, The Christian Herald stated, "the auxiliary societies, and indeed, the Christian public, are anxiously awaiting for the Directors [of ASCMJ] to conclude a judicious purchase very shortly." (64) At their monthly meeting in January 1824, the Board of Directors of ASCMJ decided to purchase between 4,000 and 6,000 acres of land as a site for the intended settlement, but they still had no plans for where it would be located. Meanwhile, newspapers were erroneously reporting rumors that a purchase had been made. (65) An ASCMJ Committee admitted that the group was "embarrassed by the raised expectations of the public." (66) By 1825, ASCMJ still had not consummated the purchase, and the American Christian public was growing increasingly impatient and critical. In the fall of 1825, a writer for The Boston Recorder, one of the era's most widely read publications, expressed this frustration:

What has the American Jews Society done since its formation? It has been some years in operation — it has employed agents, who have been as persevering and faithful as any others — it has appealed to the most sanctified and holy motives that ever warmed the Christian's heart, and has collected thousands and thousands of dollars, - and I ask what has it done? I have heard much talk and seen much writing about colonizing European Jews — about purchasing lands on which they may settle — about opening a receptacle for them on these shores — and that a few have crossed the Atlantic; but with all the funds collected, what has been done? … It is one thing to beg or to give 20,000 dollars for the conversion of the Jews, and quite another to use it in a manner calculated to bring them to repentance, and save their souls from death. I find there are many who consider the project of colonizing converted Jews at best an experiment — and one too of very doubtful utility. (67)

As time progressed and ASMCJ came no closer towards realizing its intent of colonizing converted Jews, this failure spurred increasing doubt with ASMCJ that such an objective was feasible or even desirable. In 1826, a "controversy" erupted inside the Society that challenged the very nature of its existence.

Meanwhile, while the missionaries Fisk and Parsons in Palestine had probably not achieved any more practical success than ASMCJ in terms of winning converts, they had at least generated much more positive publicity within America. From the moment they departed Boston in 1819, they seem to have become missionary celebrities. Numerous American Christian publications regularly publkished their letters and reports from abroad; through the media, tens of thousands, of readers, if not more, became familiar with their adventures. Comparatively, a much smaller quantity of American Christians are likely to have read Israel's Advocate, which had a circulation of 2,000 or received information about ASCMJ in other media, which seem to have reported about them much less frequently than they did about Parsons, Fisk, and the ABCFM's later missionaries to Palestine. In addition, American media coverage of the Palestine mission was overwhelmingly supportive of their initiative, while reactions to ASCMJ, especially in the secular press, were often critical or tinged with dismissive sarcasm. To the extent that they each brought the subject of the restoration of Jews out of the shadows and into the limelight of American Christian discourse, the two endeavors combined to mutually reinforce and augment the effect that either would have had alone. But the greater prestige that the Palestine mission — and foreign missions in general — possessed in the eyes of may American Christians would become clearly evident by the final years of the 1820s, when ASCMJ faded from public view but American travel to Palestine began the steady increase that would continue throughout the 19th century.

America's first two missionaries each left behind a notable legacy that, despite its rapid early growth, ASMCJ could not match. ASCMJ, after all, produced no martyrs, while Levi Parsons died abroad in 1822. After leaving Boston, Parsons and Fisk stayed together at Smyrna for almost one year, where they distributed Bibles and religious tracts and studied Oriental languages. In December 1820, Parsons left Smyrna in a Greek vessel, "expecting to land at Jaffa and from thence take a direct course to Jerusalem,"" while Fisk remained there. (68) Before he arrived in Jerusalem, he contemplated the spiritual state of the Jews:

With respect to the Jews, it has not been in our power as yet to extend to them the hand of benevolence … From information received, we are led to believe that the veil is still upon their hearts. They seem to be awake to the movement of Christians and are fortifying themselves in their infidelity. But when Jehovah speaks, they will hear … (69)

The journal notes that Parsons took during his stay in Jerusalem, however, show that he did not actually make a special effort to evangelize Jews. He arrived in Jerusalem on February 17, 1821, but did not visit the city's Jewish synagogues until April 3. He tried to sell some Hebrew New Testaments to the Jews who he found there, but they "dared not purchase it without the consent of the Rabbis." (70) Parsons seems to have spent most of his time distributing over 3,000 Bibles and tracts to Christians, including "priests, bishops, schoolmasters, and inquisitive pilgrims," within Jerusalem and touring the sites of city and its surroundings. This reflects, perhaps, the disjunction between American Christian perception of Jerusalem as a uniquely Jewish location and the 19th-century reality that far greater numbers of non-Jews inhabited in and visited the city. When Parsons asked some Jews how many lived in Jerusalem, they answered that there was no more than 3,000 — fewer people than Parsons had tracts to distribute. Parsons then left Palestine in May and retired to a Greek island for the summer, rejoined Fisk in Smyrna in December, and contracted a sickness in Egypt, where he died in Alexandria in February with Fisk at his side. News about Parsons' death did not reach America until July, but was then reported widely in Christian publications. At least three different commemorative poems were written and published in response to Parsons' death. Although Parsons had resided in Jerusalem for only a few months of his two years abroad, each remembered him primarily for his mission work in Palestine, one as a "mission martyr" and a "harbinger of Judah's rest." (71) The most outstanding poem was first published in Christian Spectator, then delivered by a member of Middlebury College's 1822 annual commencement in Parsons' home state Vermont, and finally republished in a 431 page biography and collection of his memoirs that his brother-in-law authored in 1825, which ABCFM's The Missionary Herald reviewed. It lauded Parsons as "virtue's friend" and asked:

Who now like him shall toil for Judah's race?
And who like him destroy Mohammed's sway?

God had guided Parsons to Palestine, the poet said:

'Twas he who summoned Parsons' holy soul
From foreign lands to its eternal home.
He will remember Israel's fallen race,
He will restore them to their fathers land.

Parsons was thus memorialized in association with the prophesied restoration of the Jews, despite the fact that they were not truly the focus of his missionary work in Jerusalem. Just as Parsons' pre-departure sermon did in 1819, this points to the incredible consistency with which American Christians regarded Palestine and the restoration of the Jews as interrelated subjects in the 1820s.

Although Parsons' aggrieved partner Pliny Fisk was not apparently concerned with Jewish restoration at the outset of the mission, after Parsons died he began to consider the issue in greater depth. In a remarkable letter from Mount Lebanon in July 1823, Fish said he had "lately been examining, with considerable attention, the prophecies in relation to that interesting people, the Jews." (73) He was especially interested, he said, in the question of "whether they are to return to their own land" and felt strongly inclined to believe that they would, but he could not know for sure without studying the Scriptures. "What then," Fish asked, "is the real language and sense of Scripture on this point?" H e asserted that the Bible promised three dispersions, which has all literally occurred, and three restorations, only two of which had been literally fulfilled. "Do not the fair rules of interpretation," he concluded, "require us to believe that the third restoration will also be literal, unless there is intimation to the contrary, or some special reasons for adopting a contrary opinion"? He knew, he said, that many Christians did not believe in a literal restoration, but he could not see how the Biblical passages he was interpreting could mean "anything less than a literal restoration of both Judah and Israel to their own land." He also earnestly believed that the conversion of the Jews was even more definitively prophesied, and he joined that year with the ABCFM's new designation for the Palestine mission, Jonas King, and a well-known Jewish convert from England, Joseph Wolff, in the practice of debating Jewish scholars and rabbis in Jerusalem. On April 28, for example, King told Menahem Mendel that Christians in America were praying for Israel's restoration, but emphasized that Jews must feel sinfulness and their need for the "great sacrifice," Jesus of Nazereth, to expiate their sins. (74) From the 1820s onward, a near-continuous stream of Christian missionaries, pilgrims, tourists and scholars flowed into Ottoman Palestine from America, and the set of conventions that Parsons and Fisk inaugurated in their reports would continue to be represented, including the conviction that Jews were destined to return to the land. Parsons' and Fisk's roles in sparking this interest of American Christians in contemporary Palestine, and in formulating the discourse that conditioned their understandings of its sacred landscape, were their most important legacies.

At the same time as American travel to Palestine was beginning to increase, a crisis within ASCMJ paralyzed the organization. By 1825, some of America's most prominent Christians were involved with the Society's operations. John Quincy Adams, President of the United States, was one of ASCMJ's twelve Vice Presidents, and James Buchanan was one of over fifty Directors. Such a distinguished cast of leaders, while it may testify to the mainline character of the movement to convert Jews in the 1820s, could not prevent a "controversy" from breaking out in 1826. In 1827, Israel's Advocate devoted four of its monthly issues to detailing the crisis. In April 1826 at a public meeting, ASCMJ's elected Board explained, twenty unfamiliar men had paid $5 each to become Directors of the Society for one year and, as allowed by the Society's Constitution, proceeded to use their votes at the meeting. Their goal, the Board soon learned and later reported, was to hijack the Society and transform — and destroy — it by redirecting its funds away from the colonization of the Jews. (75) During the following year, this faction did not gain the power to seize control of ASCMJ, but it had sufficient influence to form separate Committees and throw the Society's plans into considerable disarray. In a report issued by a Committee "appointed to devise some other plan of operation than that declared in the Constitution," the provacateurs argued that ASCMJ's experiment of colonizing Jews was not only impracticable but also a violation of Christianity's true spirit. Neither Jesus nor his apostles had ever called for Christians to create colonies for Jews, they declared, so there should not be now "the necessity of any new deispensation in their conversion authorizing a deviation" from Christ's commandment to "preach the Gospel." (76) They wanted ASCMJ to rewrite its Constitution and refocus its resources towards simply spreading the Gospel among the Jews, by sending a missionary to Jewish populations in Europe. Their conviction that Jews warranted no special attention from Christians, and whose relation to the church should be no different from that of any other sector of either converts or non-believers, was one of the main fulcrums in the debate between millennialists and premillennialists that surfaced in America during the next few decades.

The insurgent proto-millennialists, who protested against ASCMJ's premillennial-like position that the restoration and conversion of the Jews was particularly consequential to the ultimate conversion of the world, were not victorious with the Society in 1827, and the elected Board maintained control of the group's funds. In October 1827, ASCMJ finally purchased land for the settlement of Jewish converts, buying 500 acres along the Hudson River in New Paltz for $6,500. (77) The November 1827 issue of Israel's Advocate in which this news was published was the last edition of the newsletter that the Society ever produced. In the decades that followed, ASCMJ continued to exist, but with much less public visibility. As alte as 1840, Joseph Samuel Frey was still trying to realize his dream of founding a colony for Jewish converts in America, and traveled to England and continental Europe for the purpose of securing international Christian cooperation. (78) By 1845, Phillip Milledoler was again President of the Society, which recently has shifted its strategy from colonizing Jews to employing "traveling agents" to evangelize among them; the change, however, seems to have had more success among Christians than Jews, as revenue increased and eight new auxiliary Societies were formed. In 1854, ASCMJ commissioned an agent to palestine to "ascertain what may be done in the way of agricultural pursuits for the temporal amelioration of the condition of the Jews in the their own country." (80) In its Thirty-First Annual Report that year, the Board of Directors reviewed ASCMJ's history, including its ill-fated attempt to colonize Jews in the 1820s. After the purchase of the land in New Paltz, the farm was put "in complete order" and fully stocked with supplies. "The whole affair," the history reports, "was conducted only by the outlay of large sums of money," and no measures were taken to replenish ASCMJ's treasury. The Society soon became bankrupt; the farm was mortgaged to pay its debts in October 1831, and in 1835 sold for $8000. No more than a half dozen Jewish converts had ever lived at the settlement at a single time. During the next two decades, a string of failed projects — a school for Jewish children, a mission house for destitute Jews — and occasional seccesses at converting individual Jews marked ASMCJ's efforts. In May 1844, a report by a missionary employed by ASCMJ about the conversion and baptism of a Jew "awakened an interest throughout the country for the spiritual welfare of the Jews." (81) But by 1849, the Society's funds were again depleted. A few members of the Board of Directors, seeing "an extensive but totally barren field which no denomination of Christians nor any benevolent society had made any provision to cultivate," resolved to make one last trial "to reach the Jewish heart with the Gospel of Christ, wholly untrammeled by any plan for affording temporal relief." Five years later, the Society was pleased with its progress and optimistic about the future — its Treasury had expanded to over $14,000 and annual converts grew from one to twenty-nine, with none known to have applied for or needed temporal assistance. Nearly three decades after the "controversy" with ASCMJ had attempted to incite precisely such a change in strategy, the Society's leaders discovered that evangelizing Jews was indeed a more effective method of converting them than attempting to colonize them — but at the price of abandoning the dispensational philosophy that had motivated the group's original founders.

During the height of the "controversy in 1826 and 1827, the pages of Israel's Advocate revealed the shift of attention to Palestine that was occurring within America and, in particular, with respect to Jews. In IA's first year of publication, nearly every issue contained at least one reference to Jewish restoration, sometimes specifying that the restoration would be a literal one to their ancient land. IA's first issue in January 1823, for example, stated that "Jews shall be again restored to the land whence they have been driven, and there find a resting place3." At other time, the belief in Israel's restoration was expressed in more spiritual terms. In March 1823, a writer for IA asserted that because "the Jews' conversion is necessary to their restoration … the time for converting them must be before their restoration can take place." But at no point during that year was Palestine referred to specifically as the location of the restoration, and the newsletter never printed information about the ABCFM's Palestine mision. In the last few years of its existence, however, IA dedicated an increasing amount of apace to Palestine itself. Some of the material IA published shows that the term "Palestine" was, at that time, not yet firmly attached to the geographic territory of the "Holy Land." In April 1826, IA published a letter from Constantinople, relating the experiences of a missionary to the Jews in Smyrna, under the heading "Palestine." But three months later, under the same heading, IA printed a letter from an American missionary, "Dr. Dalton" about his recent trip to Jerusalem to survey its suitability for a permanent mission. Since the visits of all prior American missionaries had been for short periods of time, he said, "none of us can be said to have occupied this station." (82) The effect of missionary operations, Dalton reported, especially those of the British, was that the Jews seem to have lost much of their national prejudice against them as Christians; they appear to feel them their friends, and to look to them in times of trouble." Along with Pliny Fisk, who was still in Jerusalem and with whom he had "considered the matter very fully," Dalton highly recommended the city as a center for missionaries, and hoped to soon labor there himself in the near future.

ASCMJ, from its inception, was predicated upon the dispensational tendency to regard the Jews as a special people with a wholly unique role to play in the redemption of the world. In 1822, one of ASMCJ's officers revealed the dispensational eschatology that shaped his conception of the Society's purpose. He noted that the conversion of Jews to the faith of Christ could occur in two eays: The Jews could either come into the church individually, "so as to sink their distinctness in the mass of Christian professors," or they could preserve their distinctness by appearing at their conversion "as still the seed of Jacob." (83) The latter option, he emphasized, seemed to him to be the event necessary to fulfill the prophetic predictions. To effect the realization of the "national restoration of the Jews to the messiah," he continued, "rallying points to preserve their distinctness" should be established "in several nations." In 1824, a Reverend echoed this conviction in a sermon before the Newport, RI Auxiliary Society. To those who objected that no "particular provision should be made for the Jews," he said, "we reply that though they should be converted, it is the will of the Lord that the Jews should be a distinct people till they are restored to the land from which they are exiled. (84) Independently in England in the 1830s, John Darby and his Plymouth Brethren movement developed similar ideas of Israel as a s separate "church" into a systematic theology that giave rise to the term "dispensationalism." In the present dispensation, the Age of the Gentiles, Darby claimed, the Jewish people do not serve any constructive function — but prior to the rapture of the church, "in unbelief," they would return to their land, establish a State, rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, and resume sacrificial services there. Then the Antichrist, a Jew, would areise to become the ruler of the Jewish state, and the horrors of the Great Tribulation would ensue before Jesus returned with his saints to destroy the forces of evil and preside over a millennium of peace. His entire eschatology was, Darby insisted, the literal word of the Bible. When Darby toured America in the 1860s and 1870s, some of the elements of the dispensationalism he preached — especially his doctrine of the "sacred rapture" — were new and exciting to many American Christians. But Darby was not breaking entirely new ground; some of his ideas, like his absolute distinction between Jews and Gentiles and his belief in the literal restoration of Jews to Palestine, had already been circulating within America for decades.

As time progressed, American Christian understandings of Jewish "restoration" gradually changed by becoming more focused on their literal return to Palestine. Anticipation of the national conversion of the Jews remained fundamental to many American Christians, but this came to be seen as a separate, albeit interconnected, event. In 1844, The Biblical Repertory and Princeton Review described the state of Christian belief in Jewish restoration to Palestine in its review of Professor George Bush's "attempted proof of the Restoration and Conversion of the Jews":

In the present state of opinion and discussion, [the expression "the Restoration of Israel"] may be conveniently restricted to [its meaning as their literal recovery to the Land of Promise], in which Professor Bush employs it, while he expresses the other idea [of their spiritual reunion with the church] by the word Conversion. The future conversion of the Jews as a nation to the Christian faith is now almost universally regarded as an event explicitly revealed in scripture, the dissent from this interpretation of Paul's language being only occasional and rare. Their Restoration to the Holy Land is also extensively believed, and this doctrine may be found in combination with a great variety of other tenets. (85)

The review continued:

A belief in the literal Restoration of the Jews has for years been gaining ground in Christendom, and is now regarded with great interest by many who are not yet prepared to acknowledge it as true … There is something in the doctrine itself, well suited to awaken even a romantic interest, by giving palpable reality to what might else appear intangible and visionary, and by bringing the local associations of the Holy Land, which otherwise belong to ancient history, into intimate connection with the present and the future.

From the perspective of a later historical moment, this review thus seems to confirm the thesis that this paper has set forth: In the decades before the 1840s, independent of John Darby's influence and in conjunction with an explosion of American Christian interest in the present and future spiritual state of the Holy Land, the idea of a literal restoration of Jews to Palestine became firmly entrenched in American Christian theology and eschatology. The reality that George Bush, a prolific professor of Hebrew who was internationally renowned for his biblical exegesis, authored a book defending the concept of the Jews' literal restoration attests to the currency the idea had gained by the middle of the 19th century. In his "attempted proof," Bush left little doubt as to the literal form that prophecies of Jewish restoration would take:

The land of hallowed memories is yet to receive again its ancient tenants, and to yield its teeming riches to the old age of the people whose infancy was nurtured on its maternal bosom. The tears of a profound and heart-stricken penitence are yet to mingle with the dews of Hermon in fertilizing its barren vales and its deserted hill-tops. The olive and the vine shall again spread their honors over the mountains once delectable, now desolate; the corn shall yet laugh in the valley where the prowling Bedouin pitches his transient tent, and joyous groups of children, the descendants of patriarch fathers, shall renew their evening sports in the streets of crowded cities, where now the ruinous heaps tell only of a grandeur that has passed away. (86)

The Biblical Repertory and Princeton Review quoted this passage approvingly, stating that "no lover of the scriptures can help wishing … that these expectations may be realized, and promised to explore the issue in greater depth in upcoming issues. In the years to come, theirs was only one of many attempts to, in accord with Scripture, explicate the veracity and significance of biblical prophecies concerning the literal restoration of the Jews.

In the middle decades of the 19th century, a diverse array of American Christian voices were expressing conviction in the literal restoration, but so were many steadfast in their belief that the prophesied restoration would be spiritual in nature. Among those who held to the latter view, many argued that the term "Israel" in the biblical passages under question referred not to the Jewish nation but to the Christian church, which had supplanted the Jews as God's "chosen people" after the revelations and resurrection of Jesus. From the 1830s until the Civil War, scores of lengthy articles and books hashed out the nuances of the predicted restoration — the inevitability of which almost no one seems to have doubted — from every conceivable perspective. Such discussions frequently occurred within the context of a mushrooming debate between "millennialists," who believed that Christ would return after the church had established the millennium through its faithful preaching and practice of the gospel, and "premillennialists," who expected Christ to return before the millennium in order to establish it by his might (87) Joseph Berg's book The Second Advent of Christ was one classic statement of the millennialist position.

Both sides utilized the Jews as a main proof for their respective interpretations of Scriptural prophecy. The millennialists asserted that the perception of Jews as distinct from other humans was a corruption of the universal applicability of the gospel, while the premillennialists argued that the uniqueness of the Jews was abundantly evident both in the Bilble and in their fortunes throughout history, which they judged as correlating precisely with biblical predictions. Hollis Read's 1861 book The Coming Crisis of the World, written as the Civil War loomed, was a remarkable formulation of premillennialist doctrines. Read devoted an entire chapter to the restoration of the Jews, in which he asked: "Why has this people been so remarkably preserved as a separate and distinct people, if God has no special use for them?" (88) There were two classes of bibilical predictions, he avowed — one concerns the Gentile world, bt the other relates to "the direct instrumentality which the Jews, when converted and restored to the land of their fathers, shall have in bringing about the desired event [of Christ's return]." Read saw signs abroad of this great event "in the Jewish horizon." He quoted "an intelligent Prussian" who perceived "a genearl movement of inquiry [among European Jews], and a longing expectation, that something will take place to restore them to the land of their fathers." In Jerusalem itself, the most auspicious signs were evident, as people and money poured into the city from the West. Read quoted a resident of the holy city:

An extraordinary change has come over Jerusalem. It is now the resort of the wealthy and the great ones of the earth. Large purchases of houses and lands are made by agents of European governments, and establishments on a large and magnificent scale will be shortly made in the neighborhood. Lady Polack, a wealthy Jewess, has purchased the Mount of Olives — a Railway is about to be constructed from the Mediterranean to Jerusalem.

At the same time, he thought, thousands of Jews were realizing "the hollowness and rottenness" of Rabbinical Judaism, turning away from it, and feeling "the vacuum in their souls" which only Christian truth could fill. The time was apparently nearing when the Father of Jacob would "again smile on his wayward, wandering children, and bring them back to their native hills." Concurrently, he predicted, the Turkish Empire would be destroyed and Muslim power extinguished. The developments of following decades, as growing numbers of European Jews indeed began to settle in Palestine, served only to reinforce views such as these, and contributed substantially to premillenialism's post-Civil War ascendance to a favored position with mainline Protestant America. Current events foretold the approach of Truth to "its fiery trial and final consummation." (89) Christ might return at any moment: "Are you ready?"

In the latter decades of the 19th century, such was the message that dozens of leading premillennialists propagated to thousands of American Christians, as they aimed to build a critical mass of individuals — a "true church" — who would be prepared to meet Christ when he returned. They were, in part, reacting to the extreme social and economic changes of the era, which bred a sense that civilization was unraveling. Frequent economic depressions, labor unrest with violent strikes and looting, and overcrowded cities were all "signs of the times" that indicated the nearing end of the age. The transformation of America's cities was especially dramatic. Between 1860 and 1920, America's population tripled, but the country's urban population grew by ninefold, from about 5 to 45 million people. Vast numbers of immigrants — mostly non-Protestants from Eastern and Southern Europe — entered America's cities. While cities such as Los Angeles grew twenty times larger between 1860 and 1900 and Minneapolis and Omaha each increased more than fiftyfold during the same period, no city grew faster than Chicago. Incorporated in 1837 as a frontier outpost with seventeen houses, Chicago was the fifth largest city in the world by the turn of the century, with a population of nearly 1.7 million. As masses of impoverished blacks, Jews, Roman Catholics, and Easter Orthodox Christians moved into Chicago, the city city's affluent and middle-class Protestants migrated to its suburbs, which became connected in the 1890s to the inner city by over 700 miles of electric trolley tracks that carried almost 300 million passengers yearly. When Protestants with wealth began to abandon the congestion and filth of America's urban areas, such as Chicago, for the open spaces and "moral purity" of the suburbs, their churches tended to follow them. (90)

But for American evangelists, urban growth represented an opportunity as well as a threat. One observed, "every city has been a Babylon, and every city has been a new Jerusalem … and it has always been a question of whether the Babylon would extirpate the New Jerusalem or the New Jerusalem would extirpate the Babylon." (91) Congregationalism, which had declined in America during the preceding century, reemerged to spark a national mobilization to revive evangelical attention to the nation's urban centers and win unchurched city dwellers to Protestant faith. At the meeting of the National Council of Congregational Churches in 1874, a speaker asked the question, "How can the Gospel be most efficiently preached to the masses?" He concluded that large and inexpensive assemblies should be built in the cities, because the masses could afford neither the upscale attire nor the high pew rents that were required to attend the upper and middle-class churches of cities' outer edges. During subsequent decades, church leaders pursued such a strategy. In 1882, pastors and lay representatives from Chicago's Congregational churches formed the Chicago City Missionary Society, an organization focused on Creating Sunday schools and organizing congregations into new churches. By 1898, the Society had established fifty-five new Congregational churches in metropolitan Chicago, and similar Congregational organizations were founded in twenty-five other cities. As church membership increased, greater emphasis was placed on training lay leaders to perform essential evangelical functions such as volunteer work, Sunday school teaching, Bible reading and interpretation, missionary work, and even evangelistic preaching. In this context of simultaneous paranoia about the unprecedented social and economic turmoil that was overtaking America and jubilation about the revivalism that was beginning to thrive in cities, influential training schools such as the Chicago-based Moody Bible Institute disseminated premillennial theology to a new generation of American Christians.

Dwight L. Moody, America's most renowned post-Civil War revivalist, adopted dispensationalism in the late 1860s and early 1870s after meeting John Nelson Darby and, until his death in 1899, was a leading premillennial preacher of the imminent second coming of Jesus. Although Moody embraced many of the era's common prejudices against Jews and was denounced by Jewish leaders as an anti-Semite, he firmly believed in their restoration to Palestine and referred to them often in his sermons. "Ihave an idea that they are a nation that are to be born in a day," he said, "and when they are converted and brought back to Christ, what a mighty power they will be in the land, what missionaries to carry the glad tidings around the world." (93) On another occasion, Moody predicted Christ's return to Palestine:

When Christ returns, He will not be treated as he was before. There will be room for Him at Bethlehem. We will be welcomed in Jerusalem. He will reveal himself as Joseph revealed himself to his brethren. He will say to the Jews, "I am Jesus," and they will reply, "Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord," and the jews will then be that nation that shall be born in a day.

In the 1880s, Moody cooperated with other well-known premillennialists such as W.J. Erdman, W.G. Moorehead, James M. Gray, A.J. Gordon and Robert A. Torrey to found the Chicago Evangelical Society, renamed "Moody Bible Institute" after he died. In the 20th century, the Moody Bible Institute and replicate bible institutes in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Toronto and many other cities taught thousands of Christians to expect the "wholesale return of Jehovah's chosen people to their land" and a magnificent future for Israel in the millennial kingdom. (94) But in the late 19th century, the premillennialist movements's main vehicles for communicating their ideas were "Prophetic Conferences" and countless books, articles and sermons. At the first major Prophetic Conference in New York City in 1878, for example, an Episcopalian bishop from Philadelphia delivered a lecture entitled "The Gathering of Israel," in which he argued that "both houses of Israel are yet to be gathered out of all nations to their own land." (95) In his introduction to a compilation of essays and addresses presented at that Conference, Nathaniel West listed as the seventh article of the "Pre-Millenian Creed" the belief that "the Jews ahll be ultimately gathered again, as a separate nation, restored to their own land, and converted to the faith of Christ." (96) The "Call for the Conference" was signed by over 120 bishops, ministers, professors, evangelists and other Christians to "give mutual encouragement in the maintenance of what [we] believe to be a most vital truth for the present times." The geographical and denominational composition of this group of endorsers seems to encompass all of Protestant America; but most were from Presbyterian, Congregational, Episcopalian, Methodist and Baptist churches in cities and towns of the Northeast and Midwest. In the years to come, Dwight L. Moody's and James H. Brookes; annual Northfield and Niagara Prophetic Conferences, frequent local and regional Conferences, and periodic international Conferences all combined to disseminate premillennialism to thousands of curious Christians and ardent believers in Christ's second coming. (97)

Although nearly all premillennialists believed that the bible prophesied the literal restoration of Jews to Palestine, William E. Blackstone, a Methodist from Chicago, was unique in his attempt to turn such hopes into reality. His efforts towards the establishment of a Jewish commonwealth in Palestine antedated the rise of political Zionism, but were contemporaneous with pre-Herzilian American Zionist organizations such as "Hoveve Zion" and "Shave Zion" that encouraged Jewish settlement in Palestine. In his 1878 book Jesus Is Coming, Blackstone summarized the ideas and message of America's dispensationalist movement, and allotted a chapter to the subject of Israel's restoration; by 1908, the book had sold more than 300,000 copies and been translated into twenty-four languages. With exhaustive biblical documentation, he asserted that "surely Israel shall be restored," but "there is an awful time of trouble awaiting her" because "upon them is the guild of innocent blood, even the precious blood of Jesus Christ." (98) Despite such noxious views, Blackstone forged close relationships with American Zionist leaders, and was one of the few evangelists who Jews did not shun and despise. After Blackstone visited Palestine in 1888 to witness Zionist settlements, he became more active in his advocacy of Jewish restoration. In November 1890, he organized a conference of Christians and Jews at the First Methodist Episcopal Church in Chicago to discuss "the past, present and future of Israel." At the conference, some of the Christians and Jews disagreed about Jewish restoration to Palestine — a Methodist minister declared that its realization was "near at hand," while a Reform Rabbi dissented that "we modern Jews do not want to be restored to Palestine" — but all were concerned about the plight of Jews in Russia, who were suffering severe legal restrictions and intermittent pogroms. (99) The conference's attendants agreed to pass a resolution that expressed "a disapprobation of all discrimination against the Jews" and extended "sincere sympathy and commiseration to the oppressed Jews of Russia and the Balkans, the victims of injustice and outrage." Although the resolution called upon "the rulers and statesmen of our country to use their influence and good offices with the authorities of all lands" to halt Russia's "cruelty" against this "time-honored people," it made no reference to Palestine as a solution to the problem. Nevertheless, in Blackstone's private memo to President Harrison that supplemented his 1891 petition "in favor of the restoration of Palestine to the Jews," he described the initiative as "really an outgrowth of the Conference between Christians and Jews recently held in Chicago." (100)

Most of the 413 individuals who signed Blackstone's 1891 memorial were probably not premillennialists, but were responding to the humanitarian call it articulated. yet the petition's religous content, such as its plea for Christian nations to show kindness to Israel and its exhortation to "let us now restore to them the land of which they were so cruelly despoiled by our Roman ancestors," underscores the centrality of biblical narratives to American Christian perceptions of Palestine in the late 19th century. Despite the petition's apparent failure to impact American policy, Blackstone continued to lobby United States Presidents for Jewish restoration to Palestine. In 190s, he facilitated the endorsement of a new resolution and the original 1891 memorial by the Chicago Methodist Preachers Meeting, which he sent to President Theodore Roosevelt. Like the old memorial, the new resolution called for "an international conference to consider the condition of the Jews and their right to a home in Palestine." (101) But in language more overtly religious than the first petition included, it declared, "the environment of the Jews is so fraught with alarming danger … that humanity and the Golden Rule of Our Master demand speedy action." In 1916, Blackstone launched his final effort to spur official American support for Jewish restoration. This time, his activism seems to have played a role in convincing President Woodrow Wilson to support England's Balfour Declaration. He collected fewer signatures — only 82 — from individuals such as editors of newspapers, bishops, and presidents of banks and financial associations in the four cities of Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and Ithaca, NY, but also — more notably — solicited endorsements from the main bodies of major Protestant denominations. Blackstone's ability to garner such support was a clear indication of the respectability and prestige that leading premillennialists then enjoyed with Protestant America's conservative establishment, who tended to welcome their presence as an added buffer against the rising influence of the hermeneutical approach of "Hihher Criticism," which interpreted the Bible figuratively rather than literally, among liberal Protestant theologians. In May 1916, Blackstone acquired endorsements from the Methodist Ministers Meeting of Southern California, the Presbyterian Ministerial Association of Los Angeles, the Los Angles Baptist Ministers Conference, and finally from the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. He also tried but failed to prod the multi-denominational Federal Council of Churches of Christ of America into endorsing the petition, which was virtually identical to his 1902 version. (102)

The seriousness with which President Wilson considered the memorial was evidenced by his suggestion of alterations that he thought should be made to it. Blackstone's petition certainly was not the only factor that led Wilson to take such steps as, one month pior to the release of the Balfour Declaration in November 1917, endorsing England's plan to issue a pro-Zionist statement and, in peace talks in Paris in 1918 and 1919, backing the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine under a British mandate. Wilson maintained frequent contact with American Zionist leaders such as Stephen Wise and Louis Brandeis, who diligently instructed him regarding Zionism's virtues. And he was concerned with supporting the policies of England, a close wartime and post-WWI ally of the United States. But Wilson also was a devout Presbyterian who had grown up in an evangelical household; prayer and Bible study were, for him, daily routines. The fact that the representatives of Wilson's own church had endorsed Moody's petition may have pushed him decisively into the Zionist camp, over the objections of State Department officials and a pro-Arab Protestant lobby that was organized in 1919. If, as seems likely, Wilson's political will to carry out a pro-Zionist policy was fortified by Blackstone's demonstration that major assemblies of mainstream Christians favored Jewish restoration, then this is one — and probably the only — pre-1948 instance of premillennial activism that directly impacted the offical posture of the United States regarding Jewish colonization of Palestine. Moreover, President Wilson's support for Zionist aspirations in Palestine was a historic precedent in the evolution of America's "special relationship" with Israel, as it contravened the principle of national self-determination that generally guided his foreign policy. Wilson's advisors, such as Secretary of State Robert Lansing, warned him that enabling a Jewish homeland in Palestine would violate the native Arab right of self-determination, yet he persisted with a policy that favored the Zionists. (103) To the extent that the United States has never since corrected its initial post-WWI dismissal of the legitimacy of native Palestinian rights of nationhood, Blackstone's activism may be said to have inaugurated the precedent of American patronage of Israel that remains in effect today.

Yet there is another way of interpreting President Wilson's decision to aid Zionist objectives in Palestine. In June 1917, in a private conversation with Rabbi Stephen Wise, Wilson made a remarkable admission. "To think that I, the son of a manse," he exclaimed, "should be able to restore the Holy Land to its people." If this statement was an expression of Wilson's sincere belief, and not merely idle banter, then it points to a fundamentally different conclusion regarding premillennial influence upon American national policy. Rather than one petition prompted by a single dispensationalist, the cumulative impact of nearly one century of American Christian ferment for Jewish restoration had produced a cultural environment in which the idea seemed natural, ordinary, and inevitable. Wilson's language revealed his basic acceptance of two fundamental tenets of premillennialist Christian discourse: "The definition of the Land of Palestine as uniquely "Holy," and the assumption that it belongs intrinsically and unalterably to "its people," the Jews. Wilson was, however, surely not a premillennialist; no evidence suggests that he held, for example, to a dispensationalist view herein Jewish restoration was linked to Christ's ultimate return and establishment of a millennium of peace. Nor was he enamored, as premillennialists were, with the notion that the national conversion of Jewry would spark the conversion of all the world's Gentiles. If Wilson had suspected, as Blackstone and fellow premillennialists were certain, that Jewish restoration would lead automatically to the rule of the anti-Christ and an era of unprecedented conflict and catastrophe, then perhaps he would have developed a less sanguine attitude with respect to Zionist ambitions. The fact that American leaders such as Wilson — or the signatories to Balckstone's 1981 memorial — could adhere to core premillennialist doctrines without buying into the bulk of its complicated futurist eschatology is precisely the evidence that signals premillennialism's pervasive impact upon American perceptions of Jews and Palestine. During the height of their movement from 1878 to 1918, premillennialists successfully inculcated a public discourse in which doubt as to the eventual reality of the literal restoration of Jews to Palestine became increasingly rare. A chorus of premillennialists drowned out those American Christians who argued for an exclusively spiritual and figurative interpretation of biblical allusions to Israel's restorations; and such theologians displayed growing frustration and defensiveness in their rhetoric, as premillennialists commanded the terms of public discussion and won scores of "converts" to their dispensational paradigm of religion. Thus, despite President Wilson's expression of awe and disbelief that the task of delivering Jewish restoration seemed to have fallen personally to him, the appropriateness of such a prospect was not, to him, in question. Blackstone's memorial may have added the coup de grace to Wilson's decision to support a Jewish homeland in Palestine, but was not itself the progenitor of his pro-Zionism. Political considerations, as well as the general cultural predilections that premillennialists had helped to precipitate, had already predetermined his disposition.

However, I have argued, the trope of Jewish restoration to Palestine is rooted still more deeply in American Christian culture than in just the premillennial movement of the late 19th century. In the 1810s and especially the 1820s, as American evangelicals simultaneously began to think about and labor towards converting contemporary Jewry and Christianizing the Holy Land, notions of "restoring" both Jews and Palestine to the celestial states of glory from which they had apparently fallen became increasingly prevalent in American discourse. But conceptions differed as to what "restoration" actually entailed. Was the "restoration" of Jews conditioned upon a spiritual return to God through their acceptance of Christ; or did it necessitate their literal reoccupation of their ancient homeland? Should Palestine be "restored" through the undifferentiated spread of the true Gospel to obstinate Jews, deluded Mohammedans, and oblivious Christians alike; or were Jews particularly pertinent to its salvation? Such questions were of critical importance — for if, in God's divine calculus, American missionaries were to fulfill the special function many believed they were predestined to achieve, how could they know what they should do unless they arrived at the correct answers? What were the most efficient and appropriate methods of evangelizing the world? What did the Bible say? Different groups of American Christians reached divergent conclusions and experimented with diverse approaches to the execution of God's will in the world — so while the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions sent American missionaries to Palestine, the American Society for Meliorating the Condition of the Jews worked towards settling European Jews in America. Both initiatives generated immense enthusiasm, advanced narratives of American exceptionalism, and combined to push the question of Jewish restoration towards the heart of American Christian discourse — but by the end of the 1820s, ASMCJ was nearly comatose, while American preoccupation with and travel to Palestine was just beginning to intensify. As the 19th century progressed, American Christian fascination with Jews accelerated apace with the growing physical presence of both in Palestine, and expectations of the "restoration" of Jews became firmly fixed upon their literal occupation of the Holy Land.

They still are. As late Palestinian intellectual Edward Said wrote in his canonic 1978 critique of Western perceptions of the Orient, Orientalism, "Fictions have their own logic and their own dialectic of growth and decline." (104) Christian premillenialism declined after the 1920s, only to resurface in the mid-1970s as a mounting political force. The old narrative of Jewish restoration transformed into unconditional support for Israel's "right to exist" within borders uncompromised by any measure of Palestinian sovereignty. Similar to American Christian discourse in the 19th century that tended to efface and denigrate Palestine's native Muslim-majority Arab population through its theocratized depiction of the land as an usurped Judeo-Christian location and its unconcealed with for the extinction of "the Mohammedan power," modern Christian Zionism excoriates the Palestinians as terrorists and infidels. Today in America, Christian Zionists comprise an organized bloc that wields tremendous political power; after President George W. Bush, for example, appealed to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to cease Israel's bloody invasion of the West Bank city of Jenin in 2002, over 100,000 Christian fundamentalists mobilized to send e-mails and make phone calls urging him to refrain from restraining Israel. The irony is potent — 19th century premillennialists, with the exception of Blackstone were passive Zionists and criticized the Jewish movement's secular character, always insisting that carnage, calamities and the Antichrist would crush God's chosen people before Christ's millennial reign. Judah's kingdom, they cautioned, would not be God's final answer.

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