First Jewish Senator and an Ardent Secessionist

David L. Yulee (U.S. National Archives)

David L. Yulee (U.S. National Archives)

We came across some interesting history while digging through the rabbit hole that is Wikipedia. David Levy Yulee, of Florida, was not only one of the first senators from that state, but he was also the first Jewish senator.

He was first seated, along with James Wescott, as the inaugural senators from the state of Florida, which was admitted to the Union on March 3rd, 1845. He served only one term, being defeated in his bid for re-election and was out of office in 1851. He was back in the Senate in 1855, having been elected to the other seat, serving all the way until the outbreak of the Civil War.

The Senator withdrew from Congress on January 21st, 1861 on the eve of the war and joined the Congress of the Confederacy. As a result of his participation in the Confederate government, he was imprisoned for nine months at Fort Pulaski, near Savannah, Georgia.

He died in 1886 and below is his obituary in The Washington Post, printed on October 11th, 1886.

David L. Yulee was born in the West Indies of Hebrew extraction, in 1811, but when quite young was removed to Virginia, where he received the rudiments of a classical education. He emigrated to Florida in 1824, and, after studying law, he divided his time between the practice of his profession and agriculture. He was a delegate to Congress from the Territory of Florida from 1841 to 1845, bearing the name of Levy, and as Yulee (having changed his name) was a delegate to the convention which formed the State constitution; was elected a United Stat [sic] Senator in 1845 and continued in the United States Senate till [sic] 1861, officiating as chairman of the COmmittee on Post-offices and Post Roads. He was also president of the Atlantic and Gulf Railroad in Florida. Before the war he was one of the leading secessionists. As a Confederate he withdrew from the United States Senate in 1861, and at the close of the war he was confined in Fort Pulaski as a prisoner of State.

Senator Yulee belonged to a far-off and almost nebulous period of our politics. Long anterior to the war, as a Senator from Florida, he was better known than the State he represented. He was a man of great vitality, and though a generous liver was a prudent abstainer. While in public life he was recognized as one of the rich men of the Senate. He lost a large fortune during the war, after which, unlike most of his Southern brethren, he made several large investments in railroads, and through fortunate speculations made another handsome competency. He was attracted to Washington by its beauty, and invested a large sum in his magnificent house at 1315 Connecticut avenue, which is said to be one of the most complete and elaborately furnished in the city. The ex-Senator was also largely interested in business property, which yielded him a profitable income.

Sadly, but not surprisingly, his home no longer stands. It was located near where the Starbucks and Mad Hatter sit today.

David Levy Yulee

David Levy Yulee


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    1317 Connecticut Ave is currently the home of DGS Delicatessen, a kosher-style restaurant. Mr. Yulee would have been able to get a nice bowl of matzah ball soup!

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