Uriah P. Levy
|Birth name||Uriah Phillips Levy|
|Born||April 22, 1792|
|Died||March 26, 1862 69) (aged|
New York City
|Place of burial|
Beth Olam Cemetery, Queens, New York
|Years of service||1806–1860|
|Commands held|| USS Vandalia |
|Battles/wars|| Barbary Wars |
War of 1812
Uriah Phillips Levy (April 22, 1792 – March 26, 1862) was a naval officer, real estate investor, and philanthropist. He was a veteran of the War of 1812 and the first Jewish Commodore of the United States Navy.He was instrumental in helping to end the Navy's practice of flogging, and during his half-century-long service prevailed against the antisemitism he faced among some of his fellow naval officers.
An admirer of Thomas Jefferson, Levy purchased and began the restoration of Monticello in the 1830s; he also commissioned and donated a statue of Jefferson that is now located in the Capitol Rotunda; it is the only privately commissioned artwork in the Capitol.
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Levy was born on April 22, 1792, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Michael and Rachel Phillips Levy. He had two older siblings. Uriah Levy was close to his maternal grandfather, Jonas Phillips, who had emigrated to the United States in 1756 from Germany, and fought with the Philadelphia militia in the American Revolution. His maternal great-great grandfather, Dr. Samuel Ribeiro Nunes, a Portuguese physician, was among a group of 42 Sephardic Jews who escaped the Spanish Inquisition of the early 16th century and migrated to England, where they settled. Descendants of that group sailed from London in 1733 and helped found the city of Savannah, Georgia, where they lived for generations.
Levy's younger brother was Jonas Phillips Levy, who became a merchant and sea captain. He was the father of five, including the Congressman Jefferson Monroe Levy.
Family stories[ citation needed ] have it that Levy ran away from home at the age of ten and ended up serving on various vessels as a cabin boy, returning home to Philadelphia at age 13 for his bar mitzvah.
In 1806, he apprenticed as a sailor and was a cabin boy. Later he became a sailing master in the U.S. Navy,and fought in the Barbary Wars.
At the age of 21, he volunteered for the War of 1812 and was commissioned as a sailing master on October 21, 1812. He was a supernumerary sailing master on the Argus, which interdicted British ships in the English Channel. The Argus seized more than 20 vessels before being captured on August 14, 1813; her captain was killed, and the crew, including Levy, were taken prisoner.They were imprisoned by Great Britain for sixteen months until the end of the war. During his captivity, Levy had difficulty obtaining a subsidy and parole because his status as a supernumerary was not understood by the British Transport Board.
Upon returning to the United States, Levy served aboard the Franklin as second master. Levy was promoted to the rank of lieutenant in 1817. This commission was a rare feat, given that he started as a cabin boy and worked his way to being a sailing master.He became a master commandant in 1837, and captain in 1844.
During his service in the U.S. Navy, Levy faced considerable antisemitism.He reacted to slights and was court-martialed six times, and once demoted from the rank of Captain. Twice, he was dismissed from the Navy, but reinstated. He defended his conduct in his handling of naval affairs before a Court of Inquiry and in 1855 was restored to his former position.
Later,[ specify ] Levy commanded the Mediterranean Squadron. As a squadron commander he was given the title of commodore, then the highest position in the U.S. Navy.
Levy was instrumental in abolishing flogging in the U.S. Navy, although his position was considered controversial at the time. He also helped gain the support of the U.S Congress in passing an anti-flogging bill in 1850.
Levy spent only 16 years of his 49 year naval career in active service. The rest of time, he was listed as "waiting orders", meaning that he could be called to serve at any time. Although Levy served during the first year of the American Civil War, he was not given an active assignment at that time.
Levy became wealthy by investing in New York City's real estate market.
Levy undertook various philanthropic endeavors, many of which were in support of Jewish-American life. In 1854 he sponsored the new Jewish seminary of the B'nai Jeshurun Educational Institute in New York.
In 1833, New York City gave Levy the Key to the City after he presented the city with a patinated plaster statue of Thomas Jefferson, the one used to cast the bronze version he gave to the U.S. Congress.Before the statue was set up in New York City Hall, Levy installed it in a building on Broadway and charged admission to view it. The proceeds were used to buy bread for the city's poor.
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Levy was a great admirer of Thomas Jefferson:
I consider Thomas Jefferson to be one of the greatest men in history, the author of the Declaration and an absolute democrat. He serves as an inspiration to millions of Americans. He did much to mould our Republic in a form in which a man's religion does not make him ineligible for political or governmental life.
The Monticello estate had been owned by more than one person since Jefferson's death, and considerable property had been sold off. In 1834, Levy paid $2,700 for the 218-acre (88 ha) Monticello—which is equivalent to $69,100 in today's dollars. Levy undertook to have the long-neglected home repaired, restored, and preserved. He also bought hundreds of additional acres that had been part of the plantation, to add to what was left.
Levy used Monticello as a vacation home. From 1837 to 1839, his widowed mother Rachel Levy lived there until her death; she is buried along Mulberry Row, the main plantation street adjacent to the mansion.
Upon his death in 1862, Levy left Monticello to the American people to be used as an agricultural school for the orphans of Navy warrant officers. Because of the American Civil War, Congress refused to accept the donation. The Confederate government seized and sold the property; lawyers for Levy's estate recovered the property after the war.
Following two lawsuits by family members over Levy's will, with 47 parties to the suit, in 1879 his nephew Jefferson Monroe Levy bought out the other heirs for $10,050, and took control of Monticello.He had it repaired and restored. He sold it in 1923 to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation, which has renovated and restored the property as a house museum.
The Levy family's role in preserving Monticello was downplayed by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation through much of the 20th century, which Urofsky suggests was due to anti-Semitic views among some of its board and members.
In 1985, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation restored the gravesite of Rachel Levy and honored descendants of the family in a ceremony at Monticello.The Foundation also celebrates the roles of Uriah P. Levy and Jefferson Monroe Levy in helping preserve and restore Monticello, including on-site information about their roles.
In another tribute to Jefferson, Levy commissioned a bronze statue of the President while studying naval tactics in France; he donated it to Congress in 1834. The statue, which once stood on the White House North Lawn from 1834–1873 and currently stands in the Capitol Rotunda, is the only privately commissioned piece of artwork in the Capitol.
Levy's brother, Jonas Phillip Levy, served as the fifth president of the Washington Hebrew Congregation in Washington, DC from 1857-1858.[ citation needed ]
At the age of 61, Levy married his 18-year-old niece Virginia Lopez, whose father had recently died.According to biographer Marc Leepson (Saving Monticello, 2001), Levy "was following an ancient, if obscure, Jewish tradition that obligates the closest unmarried male relative of a recently orphaned or widowed woman in financial difficulties to marry her." (See also letter, levirate marriage)
Levy died on March 26, 1862, and was buried in Beth Olam Cemetery, Ridgewood (Queens), associated with the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue.He was one of the ranking officers of the Navy at the time of his death.
Monticello was the primary plantation of Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States, who began designing Monticello after inheriting land from his father at age 26. Located just outside Charlottesville, Virginia, in the Piedmont region, the plantation was originally 5,000 acres (20 km2), with Jefferson using the labor of enslaved African people for extensive cultivation of tobacco and mixed crops, later shifting from tobacco cultivation to wheat in response to changing markets. Due to its architectural and historic significance, the property has been designated a National Historic Landmark. In 1987, Monticello and the nearby University of Virginia, also designed by Jefferson, were together designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The current nickel, a United States coin, features a depiction of Monticello on its reverse side.
Martha "Patsy" Randolph was the eldest daughter of Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States, and his wife Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson. She was born at Monticello, near Charlottesville, Virginia.
Jefferson Monroe Levy was a three-term U.S. Congressman from New York, a leader of the New York Democratic Party, and a renowned real estate and stock speculator.
Jonas Phillips Levy (1807–1883) was an American merchant and sea captain. Levy was granted the "freedom of the country" by the government of Peru for signal services rendered in the Peruvian Navy.
Jonas Phillips (1736—1803) was a veteran of the American Revolutionary War and an American merchant in New York City and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was the immigrant ancestor of the Jewish Phillips family in the United States. Emigrating from Germany in 1759, Phillips worked off his passage as an indentured servant in Charleston, South Carolina. He moved to the North in 1759, becoming a merchant in New York City and then moving to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
USS Levy (DE-162) was a Cannon-class destroyer escort, named in honor of Commodore Uriah P. Levy (1792–1862), a notable figure of the 19th-century Navy.
The United States Naval Academy Chapel in Annapolis, Maryland, is one of two houses of worship on the grounds of the Navy's service academy. Protestant and Catholic services are held there. The Naval Academy Chapel is a focal point of the Academy and the city of Annapolis. The chapel is an important feature which led to the Academy being designated a National Historic Landmark in 1961.
Hispanic Admirals in the United States Navy can trace their tradition of naval military service to the Hispanic sailors, who have served in the Navy in every war and conflict since the American Revolution. Prior to the Civil War, the highest rank reached by a Hispanic-American in the Navy was commodore. Such was the case of Commodore Uriah Phillips Levy (1792–1862), a Sephardic Jew of Hispanic descent and great grandson of Dr. Samuel Nunez, who served in the War of 1812. During the American Civil War, the government of the United States recognized that the rapid expanding Navy was in need of admirals therefore, Congress proceeded to authorize the appointment of nine officers the rank of rear admiral. On July 16, 1862, Flag Officer David Glasgow Farragut became the first Hispanic-American to be appointed to the rank of rear admiral. Two years later (1864), Farragut became a vice admiral, and in 1866 the Navy's first full admiral. During World War I, Robert Lopez, the first Hispanic graduate of the United States Naval Academy, served with the rank of commodore in command of the Mare Island Naval Shipyard, and during World War II five Hispanics served with the ranks of rear admiral or above in either the European or Pacific Theater's of the war. As of April 2007, twenty-two Hispanic-Americans have reached the rank of admiral, and of this number thirteen were graduates of the USNA.
Samuel Nunis (1668–1744) was a Portuguese physician and among the earliest Jews to settle in North America.
Commodore Uriah P. Levy Center and Jewish Chapel is the Jewish chapel at the United States Naval Academy, in Annapolis, Maryland.
Jewish Americans have served in the United States armed forces dating back to before the colonial era, when Jews had served in militias of the Thirteen Colonies. Jewish military personnel have served in all branches of the armed forces and in every major armed conflict to which the United States has been involved. The US department of defense there are currently 3,973 known Jewish servicemen and servicewomen on active duty.
The Commodore Levy Chapel, established in 1942 and renamed in 1959 in honor of Uriah P. Levy, is the United States Navy's oldest Jewish chapel, located at Naval Station Norfolk, in Norfolk, Virginia. It is part of a chapel complex in the Naval Station's Frazier Hall that also includes Catholic, Protestant, and Muslim Chapels.
Commodore Uriah P. Levy Chapel may refer to:
Levy Chapel may refer to:
Commodore Levy Jewish Chapel may refer to:
Levy Jewish Chapel may refer to:
Uriah P. Levy Chapel may refer to:
Commodore Levy Jewish synagogue may refer to:
The Beth Olam Cemetery is a historic cemetery in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn, New York City. It is located in the city's Cemetery Belt, bisected by the border between Brooklyn and Queens.
The statue was given to "the people of New York" by Commodore Uriah Phillips Levy (1792–1862) at the end of 1833. It is the original plaster from which the bronze version, which he gave "to the people of the United States," was made....Before the statue was set up in City Hall, Levy charged admission to view it at 355 Broadway, using the proceeds to feed the city's poor....For his generous gift, Levy was given the Freedom of the City of New York award, symbolized by a large gold snuff box.
Marc Leepson Saving Monticello: The Levy Family's Epic Quest to Rescue the House That Jefferson Built, Free Press, 2001; University of Virginia Press (paperback), 2003.