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August 2014: "To Show Kindness to Israel"
The Blackstone Memorial

The montage above of the founders of the Chicago Hebrew Mission (1887) illustrates Blackstone's central place in the organization. He is in the oval right center, wearing glasses. The montage is from the pamphlet, Twenty-Five Years of Blessing, published in 1913. From Collection 540, Box 1, Folder 1

William Eugene Blackstone (1841-1935) was an American businessman, evangelist and author. He was involved in many ministries, particularly sharing the Christian Gospel with the Jewish people, in the United States and elsewhere. Among other organizations, he played a key role in the founding of the Chicago Hebrew Mission. (Charles Blanchard, president of Wheaton College, was also president of the CHM from 1913-1925.)

Blackstone's fervent dispensational belief in the imminent Second Coming of Jesus Christ caused him to become interested in the plight of the Jewish people in many countries around the world, particularly Czarist Russia. He played a key part in organizing meetings of American civic and religious leaders to examine the problem. He then became one of the first American evangelicals to support a national homeland for the Jewish people in Palestine, then under Turkish rule.

In 1891 Blackstone was the key figure in creating the petition sometimes called "Palestine for the Jews" but better known as The Blackstone Memorial. The petition mentioned briefly the current persecution of the Jews in Russia, where recent decrees ordered their expulsion. It then outlined humanitarian arguments for the United States to use its influence to create a new Israel in Palestine. As Blackstone wrote in the Memorial, "We believe this is an appropriate time for all nations, and especially the Christian Nations of Europe, to show kindness to Israel. A million exiles, by their terrible suffering, are appealing to our sympathy, justice and humanity. Let us restore them to the land of which they were so cruelly despoiled by our Roman ancestors."

Blackstone was able to have the Memorial signed by a hundreds of religious (Christian and Jewish), civic, business, and political leaders, including John D. Rockefeller Sr., Speaker of the House Thomas Reed, Charles Blanchard, Cyrus McCormick, D. L. Moody, and J. Pierpont Morgan. The petition was personally presented by Blackstone to President Benjamin Harrison in March 1891. It was received politely, but there was no other official response. However, it might have influenced the protests that the American government made to Russia about the expulsion decrees and this was one of the factors resulting in these degrees being withdrawn. The Memorial got a great deal of publicity, particularly in the United States and sparked much debate among both Christian and Jews about the possibility and desirability of a Jewish homeland.

Blackstone continued to attempt to influence American public and government opinion in favor of the creation of a Jewish nation in Palestine. He sent copies of the Memorial to Presidents Grove Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson and he continued to gather signatures indicating wide support among leaders of public opinion. His unofficial presentation of an updated version of the Memorial to Woodrow Wilson in May 1916 was possibly one of the influences on Wilson's favorable response to the Balfour Declaration, which was a statement of the British government supporting the idea of a Jewish homeland.

 

The BGC Archives' Collection 540 contains a small gathering of Blackstone's papers, including copies of the memorial and correspondence about it, Below are links to carbon copies of the 1891 and 1916 versions of the memorials (each with lists of the people who signed), as well as a few supporting letters and other documents.

1891 Memorial

1916 Memorial

1916 Memorial - Los Angeles Methodists Addendum

1916 Memorial - Los Angeles Baptists Addendum


1916 Memorial - Chicago Methodists Addendum

May 1925 letter from the State Department acknowledging receipt of the Memorial

November 17, 1916 copy of a letter from Blackstone to President Wilson congratulating him on his reelection


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Last Revised: 8/01/14
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