Diary Entry by Edmund Ruffin, May 16, 1857

Source citation
Scarborough, William Kauffman, ed. The Diary of Edmund Ruffin. Vol. 1. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1972, p. 71-72.
Author (from)
Edmund Ruffin
Date Certainty
Scott Ackerman
Transcription date
The following text is presented here in complete form, as it originally appeared in print.

May 16.

To Dr. Bachman’s (study) soon after breakfast. An interesting conversation, & an account from him of his early and self education. I knew that he was a man of various and great attainments: but had no idea before that he had alone, & without aid but of books, acquired his knowledge of Latin, Greek, & elementary Mathematics, & so fitted himself to enter college. Also, & even without books or instruction he had made extensive acquisitions in Botany & Zoology, by collecting & preserving specimens, & observing specimens, & observing the habits of the living subjects. And in his later life, even after his removal to a city, & his having access to libraries & other aids, it is surprising how much labor of study & learning, & writing, he has continued to perform, superadded to care of his large family, & his ministry as a pastor, & his pastoral attention to many besides those of his own congregation. For, as I have long known, the love & veneration for him, & his own benevolence & piety, are not confined to his own congregation, nor by sectarian limits. I deem him among the best of Christians & of pastors, because his works prove it, & his uniform cheerfulness further confirms it.

Attended the Synagogue & worship of the “Reformed Jews” this being their Sabbath. This is a noble and beautiful edifice, & the congregation is composed principally of Jews born in Charleston-about 200 adult males, & perhaps 500 counting the families & children. There are two other synagogues, the members of which are mostly foreigners, & more of the ignorant class. In these (which claim the name of “orthodox Jews”) the Hebrew language is mostly used, & the old forms strictly maintained. The “reformed” congregations have altered or dispensed with old & unsuitable forms, & use the English language for the better part of their services-& also have introduced the organ, & have very fine sacred music. I went in a little after the reading had begun (in Hebrew). With some later comers, there were but 9 men in the congregation, including myself, besides the priest and his assistant-& perhaps 25 women & children. The services were impressive & solemn-except for the usage of everyone wearing his hat-even the priest. A portion of the service was in a kind of chanting, something midway in sound between speaking and singing, uttered mostly by the priest, but sometimes responded to by the men of the congregation. The sound was singular, & musical, but not generally melodious. The hymns, accompanied by the organ, were very fine. I was surprised to see, among the books in the pew in which I sat, an ordinary English Bible, with the New Testament included. And this was not a solitary instance, as, in the pew before me, a young man held in his hand throughout, & frequently read in a small & handsome copy of a common edition published by the American Bible Society. From all the indications, I infer that the persons who compose this congregation are in a transition state, or on the middle passage from Judaism either to Christianity, or more generally to carelessness & disregard of both & all systems of religion. The obstinacy with which the Jews of the old world have clung to their religion, has in great measure been caused by their being persecuted or despised for it. In this country, they are entirely free from persecution, both direct and indirect-& are as much respected as other people, if their conduct deserves respect. The first emigrants from Europe generally remain strict and bigoted Jews. Their children grow up and among & like the children of other people-& if they are educated & wealthy, generally neglect or cast aside their Jewish observances, & are more deists than Jews. In the next generation, the Jewish faith and prejudices are generally at the end-& the young people, as much as all others, are open to receive impressions of the Christian religion. While the Jews of the second generation will generally lose their ancient religion, it will be rare that any earlier than of the third or fourth generation will become true converts to Christianity.

Dined by invitation with Wm. M. Lawton esq., a prominent & wealthy & very intelligent merchant, to whom I have before been indebted for much attention. Ten guests were there-intelligent & agreeable gentlemen-the most so were Richard Yeadon, editor of the Courier, & Isaac Hayne, Attorney General. We remained together from 4-91/2 P.M. Much of our conversation on the subjects of slavery and secession of the southern states-though the latter, as well as all references to party politics, were treated in jocular manner.

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