Some twenty years ago Dr. Garnett called my attention to a curious and very learned work, in which it was argued with much show of anthropological and philological research that the historical drama of the Pentateuch was, from first to last, enacted in America.1 I learnt from this remarkable book that the Garden of Eden was in the South Seas; that Noah lived in Cuba; that Nimrod reigned and hunted first in Florida and then in the Cordilleras; that Esau was a native of the Brazils; and that the passage of the Bed Sea was performed on the ice of the Behring Straits. I could not help thinking of this book last night as I turned over my notes for the present paper, for, as I looked at them, it seemed to me that it was quite within the range of possibility that one of these days some member of the American Jewish Historical Society might arise and startle us with a theory not less revolutionary. I pictured him coming over here and telling us that we were mistaken in imagining that our community stood in a parental relation to that of the United States; that, as a matter of fact, we were a mere offshoot of the American Jewry; that we owed our re-settlement in this very city to American influences, and that the first steps in our emancipation were accomplished in what was then an American corner of the British Empire. Of course these statements would not be altogether true; but, strangely enough, there is a great deal which an ingenious person might find to say in favour of some of them.
The fact is that American history really played a very considerable
1 Palaorama: Oceanisch-Amerikanische Untersuchungen u. Aufkl?rungen, &c. Erlangen. 1868.
part in bringing about the return of the Jews to this country. It was in America that Religious Liberty won its first victory. The cause had been valiantly sustained in the Mother Country and in Holland, chiefly by the Baptists and the Brownists, but not until these sec? taries reached American soil were they able to give practical effect to their doctrines. The pioneer in this great work was Boger Williams, the preacher and founder of the Colony of Bhode Island, whose life has lately been admirably written by Mr. Oscar S. Straus, the President of the American Jewish Historical Society.1 The administration of the colony of Rhode Island was based on religious liberty. "We agree," ran one of its laws adopted in 1641, "as formerly hath been the liberties of the town, so still, to hold for the liberty of conscience."2 During Williams's Presidency, between the years 1655 and 1657, a number of Jews settled in the colony, and became the nucleus of the once wealthy and influential community of Newport. They enjoyed absolute freedom, and their political rights were equal to those of their Christian fellow-citizens?whether for the first time in Anglo-Jewish history I shall discuss presently.
Long before this period, however, Roger Williams's agitation had given a