Benjamin Nones

Benjamin Nones was one of the earliest members of the Jewish faith to take an active part in American public life. Born in France in in 1757, Nones emigrated to Philadelphia around 1772 and joined the Continental Army in 1777, fighting with Pulaski. After the war, he struggled to make ends meet on his earnings as a notary public and government interpreter with a growing family to support.

When Nones attended a Republican convention in Philadelphia in August 1800, the Federalists chose him as representative of the Jewish tendency to support their opponents and published an article in the Gazette of the United States, a leading federalist newspaper, describing the meeting in derogatory terms and describing Nones as "a Jew, a Republican, and poor."

Nones responded with a letter vigorously defending himself, but the Gazette would not publish it, demonstrating again that freedom of the press is limited to those who own presses. Fortunately for Nones, another newspaper in Philadelphia, William Duane's Aurora, would publish it. He defended himself on all three counts, and attacked his attacker:

Your correspondent, Mr. Wayne, cannot have known what it is to serve his country from principle in time of danger and difficulties, at the expense of his health and his peace, of his pocket and his person, as I have done; or he would not be as he is, a pert reviler of those who have so done.

Benjamin Nones died in 1826.