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Moses of South Carolina

A Jewish Scalawag during Radical Reconstruction

Benjamin Ginsberg

Publication Year: 2010

Franklin Moses Jr. is one of the great forgotten figures in American history. Scion of a distinguished Jewish family in South Carolina, he was a firebrand supporter of secession and an officer in the Confederate army. Moses then reversed course. As Reconstruction governor of South Carolina, he shocked and outraged his white constituents by championing racial equality and socializing freely with former slaves. Friends denounced him, his family disowned him, and enemies ultimately drove him from his home state. In Moses of South Carolina, Benjamin Ginsberg rescues this protean figure and his fascinating story from obscurity. Though Moses was far from a saint—he was known as the “robber governor” for his corrupt ways—Ginsberg suggests that Moses nonetheless deserves better treatment in the historical record. Despite his moral lapses, Moses launched social programs, integrated state institutions, and made it possible for blacks to attend the state university. As a Jew, Moses grew up on the fringe of southern plantation society. After the Civil War, Moses envisioned a culture different from the one in which he had been raised, one that included the newly freed slaves. From the margins of southern society, Franklin Moses built America’s first black-Jewish alliance, a model, argues Ginsberg, for the coalitions that would help reshape American politics in the decades to come. Revisiting the story of the South's “most perfect scalawag,” Ginsberg contributes to a broader understanding of the essential role southern Jews played during the Civil War and Reconstruction.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press


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Title Page, Copyright

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p. vii


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p. ix

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1. A Southern Moses

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pp. 1-34

IN THE 1870s, during the heyday of Radical Reconstruction, Franklin Moses Jr., a member of an old South Carolina Jewish family, was a major figure in state politics. Moses, a scalawag (a radical Republican, was an influential participant in the South...

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2. The Making of a Scalawag

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pp. 35-69

BY THE END OF THE WAR, South Carolina had suffered enormous human and economic losses. Nearly twenty thousand of the state’s young men had been killed and thousands more wounded. The state’s economy had been devastated. Homes, stables, factories, and warehouses had been looted and burned. The slaves, a...

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3. Reinventing South Carolina’s Government

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pp. 70-99

ON JANUARY 14, 1868, the members of South Carolina’s Constitutional Convention assembled in Charleston. The delegates consisted of fifty-one whites and seventy-three blacks, making South Carolina’s one of only two Reconstruction-era state...

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4. Speaker Moses

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pp. 100-147

SOUTH CAROLINA'S NEWLYelected Republican government convened for the first time in July 1868. The state’s white press lost no time in launching a vigorous attack against the entire administration, not waiting to see what it would do. Merely watching the new...

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5. Governor Moses

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pp. 148-177

IN 1872, THOUGH THE FUTURE might be problematic for South Carolina’s Republicans, the present was bright. The federal government’s proceedings against the Ku Klux Klan and other paramilitary forces associated with the Democrats made it virtually impossible for the Democratic party to mount a credible campaign...

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6. Exiled from the Promised Land

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pp. 178-189

FRANK MOSES WAS thirty-seven when his term as governor ended. He had little money and few prospects. The Robber Governor’s assets consisted of approximately a hundred dollars in cash and some personal...

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pp. 190-192

AND WHAT OF FRANKLIN MOSES? After winning his release from state custody, Moses left South Carolina. He deserted his wife and stole from his mother.1 He spent time in New York, Chicago, Boston, and other northern cities, eking out a living as a petty grifter. He was arrested in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and...


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pp. 193-211


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pp. 212-219


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E-ISBN-13: 9780801899164
E-ISBN-10: 0801899168
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801894640
Print-ISBN-10: 0801894646

Page Count: 240
Illustrations: 7 halftones
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 794700379
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Moses of South Carolina

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Legislators -- South Carolina -- Biography.
  • Moses, Franklin Israel, 1838-1906.
  • Governors -- South Carolina -- Biography.
  • South Carolina -- Politics and government -- 1865-1950.
  • Republican Party (S.C.) -- History -- 19th century.
  • Reconstruction (U.S. history, 1865-1877) -- South Carolina.
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