1829 ORIGINAL HANDWRITTEN MANUSCRIPT DOCUMENT REGARDING THE FARMER'S BANK OF VIRGINIA AND PROMINENT JEWISH MERCHANT AND BUSINESSMAN PERHAPS ACTING FOR WOULD-BE PLAYWRIGHT AND DESCENDANT OF A COLONIAL JEWISH FAMILY522
WILLIAM NEKERVIS. AUTOGRAPH LETTER SIGNED as Cashier, Farmers Bank of Virginia, (Richmond, Virginia), April 10, 1829. 8 x 10 inches, 1 page + integral stampless address leaf. Horizontal and vertical folds; light soil; some weakness at folds; large docketing note on address leaf; Good condition overall. To T.I. Tobias: ...Since I last wrote to you, two of Mr. Judah's notes have been consolidated and reduced to $240. The debt is now $455, in two notes, $240 and $215, both due 27/30 April. There is a bit of a mystery behind this letter. T.I. TOBIAS was a prominent New York Jewish merchant and importer, active in Jewish and philantrophic affairs in the city, in Congregation Shearith Israel and the Society for the Education of Poor Children and Relief of Indigent Persons of the Jewish Persuasion. But who was the indebted "Judah" named in the letter? It may have been DAVID JUDAH (1799-1876), descendant of an old colonial New York Jewish family, and a would-be playwright who, after writing three bad plays which were stage-produced to universal scorn in the early 1820s, was so embittered by his failure as a dramatist that he published, in 1823, Gotham and the Gothamites, "a book of versified satire of a highly libellous character, in which he attacked over a hundred people more or less prominent in New York." This publication led to a libel suit against him. Judah was found guilty, fined $400, which he could not pay, and sent to prison, where he spent five weeks before he was pardoned by the Governor because of ill-health. In 1825, Judah was admitted to the bar as an attorney of the Supreme Court, and spent many ensuing years collecting debts from people who faced the threat of debtors' prison. Could his own personal debts have been still outstanding in 1829? If so, it may be that the respectable Mr. Tobias was lending him a helping hand, as Judah was also a member of Shearith Israel, the Synagogue in which the Tobias family was prominent. How the then-largest bank in Virginia might have got hold of Judah's notes is another part of the mystery. In any case, this letter represents an interesting peek at the life of the New York Jewish community in the Jeffersonian era.
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