David Levy Yulee
(born David Levy
; June 12, 1810 – October 10, 1886) was an American politician and attorney. Born in St. Thomas
, then under British control, he was of Sephardi Jewish
ancestry: his father was from Morocco
and his mother, also of Sephardi descent, was born in Sint Eustatius
and raised in St. Thomas
The family moved to Florida when he was a child, and he grew up there on their extensive lands. He later served as Florida's territorial delegate to Congress. Yulee was the first person of Jewish
ancestry to be elected and serve as a United States Senator
, serving 1845–1851 and again 1855–1861. He founded the Florida Railroad
Company and served as president of several other companies, earning the nickname of "Father of Florida Railroads."
In 2000 he was recognized as a "Great Floridian
" by the state.
Levy added Yulee, the name of one of his Moroccan ancestors, to his name soon after his 1846 marriage to Nancy Christian Wickliffe, daughter of ex-Governor Charles A. Wickliffe
. Though Yulee converted to Christianity
) and raised their children as Christian,
he encountered antisemitism
throughout his career.
Early life and education
Early political career
During his twenties, Levy served in the territorial militia, including during the Second Seminole War
. In 1834 he was present at a conference with Seminole chiefs, including Osceola
In 1836 he was elected to the Florida Territory's Legislative Council, serving from 1837 to 1839. He was a delegate to the territory's constitutional convention in 1838 and served as the legislature's clerk in 1841.
While living in Fernandina
, Yulee began to develop a railroad across Florida. He had planned since 1837 to build a state-owned system. He became the first Southerner to use state grants under the Florida Internal Improvement Act of 1855
, passed to encourage the development of such infrastructure. He made extensive use of the act to secure federal and state land grants
"as a basis of credit" to acquire land and build railroad networks, which were built with slave and Irish immigrant labor
through the Florida wilderness.
Issuing public stock, Yulee chartered the Florida Railroad
in 1853. He planned its eastern and western terminals at deep-water ports, Fernandina
(Port of Fernandina
) on Amelia Island
on the Atlantic
side, and Cedar Key
on the Gulf of Mexico
, to provide for connection to ocean-going shipping. His company began construction in 1855. On March 1, 1861, the first train arrived from the east in Cedar Key, just weeks before the beginning of the Civil War.
Levy (still going by that surname) was elected in 1841 as the delegate
from the Florida Territory
to the United States House of Representatives
and served four years. He was seated after his election,
but his position was disputed, as opponents argued that he was not a citizen.
Levy agreed to suspend his legislative activities pending resolution of this issue in the next Congressional session.
By late March 1842 the associated investigations, committee votes, and attempts to bring the issue to a vote in the full House, which included a defense by Levy and testimony from witnesses favorable to him, had not produced a definitive opinion of the House.
Levy was allowed to take his seat, and no further attempts were made to contest his claim to it.
Once seated in the House, Levy worked to gain statehood for the territory and to protect the expansion of slavery in other newly admitted states.
In 1855 Yulee was again elected by the Florida legislature to the Senate. He served until resigning in 1861 in order to support the Confederacy
at the start of the American Civil War
Yulee's inflammatory pro-slavery rhetoric in the Senate earned him the nickname "Florida Fire-Eater
Although he frequently denied that he favored secession, Yulee and his colleague, Senator Stephen Mallory
, jointly requested from the War Department
a statement of munitions and equipment in Florida forts on January 2, 1860. He wrote to a friend in the state, "the immediately important thing to be done is the occupation of the forts and arsenals in Florida."
During the Civil War, Yulee did not seek any elective or appointive office. There is some dispute as to his wartime legislative service as some sources state that he served in the Confederate Congress and others do not.
After the war, Yulee was imprisoned in Fort Pulaski
for nine months for treason,:188
specifically for aiding in the 1865 escape of Jefferson Davis
After receiving a pardon and being released from confinement, Yulee returned to Florida and rebuilt the Yulee Railroad, which had been destroyed by warfare. He served as president of the Florida Railroad
Company from 1853 to 1866, as well as president of the Peninsular Railroad, Tropical Florida Railway, and Fernandina and Jacksonville Railroad companies. His development of the railroads in Florida was his most important achievement and contribution to the state.
He was called the "Father of Florida Railroads".
His leadership helped bring increased economic development to the state, including the late nineteenth-century tourist trade.
In 1870 Yulee hosted President Ulysses S. Grant
Marriage and family
Death and legacy
Selling the Florida Railroad, he retired with his wife to Washington, D.C.
in 1880, where she had a family.
Yulee died six years later while visiting in New York City.
Yulee was buried at Oak Hill Cemetery
in Washington, D.C.
- ^ a b c d e f "Jewish Virtual Library: David Levy Yulee". Retrieved 2009-05-15.
- ^ Garraty, John Arthur; Carnes, Mark Christopher (1999). American National Biography. 24. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. p. 201. ISBN 9780195206357.
- ^ a b Allman, T.D. (2013). Finding Florida. The True History of the Sunshine State. Atlantic Monthly Press. ISBN 9780802120762.
- ^ Edenfield, Gray (June 17, 2014). "David Yulee's History". From the Jailhouse. Fernandina Beach, FL: Amelia Island Museum of History.
- ^ McIver, Stuart B. (2008). Touched by the Sun. 3. Sarasota, FL: Pineapple Press. p. 168. ISBN 978-1-56164-206-9.
- ^ a b c d Federal Writers' Project (1939), Florida. A Guide to the Southernmost State, New York: Oxford University Press, p. 348, retrieved October 29, 2017
- ^ David Levy Yulee Jewish Virtual Library
- ^ Kurt F. Stone, The Jews of Capitol Hill: A Compendium of Jewish Congressional Members, 2010, page 4
- ^ Roger Moore, Ron Kurtz, Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach, 2001, page 1873
- ^ https://www.haaretz.com/jewish/.premium-1886-controversy-beset-senator-dies-1.5347977
- ^ Mosaic: Jewish Life in Florida (Coral Gables, FL: MOSAIC, Inc., 1991): 9
- ^ a b Retrieved from the permanent collection of the Jewish Museum of Florida
- ^ a b c d e John R. Nemmers, "A Guide to the David Levy Yulee Papers", University of Florida Smathers Libraries, Special and Area Studies Collections, March 2005, accessed 24 July 2011
- ^ a b Wiseman, Maury. "David Levy Yulee: Conflict and Continuity in Social Memory". Jacksonville University. Retrieved 2013-06-27.
- ^ Cook, David (December 6, 1987). "Orange Springs Once Thriving Resort". Ocala Star-Banner. Retrieved May 2, 2014.
- ^ "House of Representatives: Mr. Levy introduced a bill making further provision for the suppression of hostilities in Florida...". Hillsborough Recorder. Hillsborough, NC. August 5, 1841. p. 3.
- ^ "Twenty-Seventh Congress: The resolution of the Committee on Elections in reference to Mr. Levy was taken up as follows: Resolved, that David Levy, Esq., is not a citizen of the United States...". Public Ledger. Philadelphia, PA. September 8, 1841. p. 1.
- ^ "The resolution postponing the case of David Levy sitting delegate from Florida till the next session was adopted: Yeas 123, Nays 44". Commercial Advertiser and Journal. Buffalo, NY. September 13, 1841. p. 2.
- ^ Bartlett, D. W. (1865). Cases of Contested Elections in Congress from 1834 to 1865, Inclusive. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office. p. 47.
- ^ a b "Great Floridians 2000 Program: Judah Philip Benjamin". Florida Department of State, Florida Heritage. Archived from the original on 2007-09-30.
- ^ Horowitz, Jason (12 July 2014). "Republican Jews Alarmed at the Prospect of a Void in the House and Senate". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 July 2014.
- ^ Davis, Robt. W. (June 1, 1902). "Florida in Congress". Florida Magazine. Jacksonville, FL: G. D. Ackerly: 362. Note: All of Florida's Confederate senators and representatives are listed here, and Yulee's name is not among them.
- ^ Thomas William Herringshaw, Herringshaw's National Library of American Biography, 1914, p. 524
- ^ John R. Nemmers, George A. Smathers Library, University of Florida, A Guide to the David Levy Yulee Papers: Biographical Note, March 2005
- ^ Hunn, Max (Aug 19, 1956). "Driving through Florida history". Ocala Star-Banner. p. 29. Retrieved 8 June 2015.
- ^ Publications of the Florida Historical Society. Florida Historical Society. 1908. p. 32.
- ^ Feldman, Ari (August 20, 2017). "Why Are There No Statues Of Jewish Confederate Judah Benjamin To Tear Down?". Forward. Retrieved September 6, 2017. There is only one known statue of a Jewish Confederate leader. It depicts David Levy Yulee, an industrialist, plantation owner, and Confederate senator from Florida, and it shows him sitting on a bench.
Last edited on 25 May 2021, at 21:36
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