by Samuel D. Gruber
(ISJM) One of the thoughts that crossed my mind last Friday night as I listened to my rabbi speak about the meaning of July 4th, was the "Jewish contribution," or better, "the contribution of Jews" to the struggle. This allowed me to pull from memory some work I did when I was Research Director of the US Commission for the Preservation of America's Heritage Abroad.
Seven years ago, on July 4 (2002), the Commission published a report I wrote, Preliminary Survey of Sites Associated with the Lives and Deeds of Foreign-born Heroes of the American Revolution. At the time the Commission was deep in the organization of countrywide surveys of Jewish and other minority cultural sites in Central and Eastern Europe, doing a lot of very important work on a tiny budget. But someone on Capitol Hill saw the name of the Commission and thought that The Revolutionary War was an essential part of American heritage abroad, too (even if it wasn't what the legislative creators of the Commission had in mind), and asked that a list overseas sites associated with Foreign-born Heroes of the American Revolution be compiled. Though unexpected, this turned out to be an interesting task.
No such list existed, but since there was no extra funding and not much time for the work, it was very-much desk chair research - there was certainly no time or money to visit sites. We had to define some essential terms (such as "hero"), and after compiling some longs lists, we settled on a selection of individuals who contributed to the Revolution, and also collectively represented something of the diverse nation America became.
One of the people on the list was Francis Salvador (born in England, 1747), of whom at the time I had never heard. Unlike Lafayette and Kosciusko, who were heroes in their own countries as well in America, we found no markers or monuments to Salvador in the country of birth, and few in the country he adopted - except two in his home state of South Carolina. In belated celebration of July 4th (2009), I post these here (since 2002, I've made it a point when traveling to visit all the sites I can that honor the foreign-born heroes of '76).
Salvador came from a prominent Sephardi Jewish family in England. He was already a fourth generation English-Jew. His great-grandfather Joseph was the first Jewish Director of the East India Company. Francis Salvador came to America as a young man to improve his fortunes, but he became caught up in the revolutionary fervor of the time, becoming the only Jew in the colonies to serve in a revolutionary congress, and then having the dubious (but now "heroic") status of being the first Jew to be killed in the War of Independence.
As I wrote in the Commission report "Francis Salvador was an early casualty of the Revolution – slain in August 1776 in an Indian attack fomented by the British. Born in London in 1747, he moved to South Carolina where he was actively involved in the independence movement. Within a year of his arrival, at the age of 27, Salvador was elected to the General Assembly of South Carolina. In 1774, Salvador was elected as a delegate to South Carolina's revolutionary Provincial Congress, which assembled in Charleston in January 1775 to frame a bill of rights that set forth grievances against the British government. Salvador played important roles in both the first and second Provincial Congress, gaining appointments on several select commissions. One such commission was established to preserve the peace in the interior parts of South Carolina, where the English Superintendent of Indian Affairs was busily negotiating treaties with the Cherokees to induce the tribe to attack the colonists."
There is one historical marker commemorating Salvador set in Washington Park in Charleston. One has to make an effort to find it, where it is set among many memorials of the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.
The inscription on the plaque reads:
1747 – 1776
First Jew in
to hold public office South Carolina
To Die for American Independence
Born an aristocrat, he became a democrat, an Englishman, he cast his lot with
True to his ancient faith, he gave his life for new hopes of human liberty and understanding.
Erected at the time of the Bicentennial celebration of the Jewish community of
Approved by the historical commission of
The inscription reads:
Francis Salvador, 1747-1776.
This young English Jew settled near Coronaca in 1774, representing Ninety Six District in the provincial congresses of 1775-1776, and died in defense of his adopted home on Aug. 1, 1776. He was the first South Carolinian of his faith to hold an elective public office and the first to die for American independence.