For more than a century, his story has regularly exercised historical and literary imaginations alike. How could it be otherwise? Diplomat, playwright, journalist, politician, and visionary, Mordecai Manuel Noah (1785–1851) was an extraordinary individual. In the course of his life, he wrote and produced successful plays, fought a duel, established himself as a popular newspaper columnist, rescued enslaved American sailors during his tenure as U.S. consul in Tunis, published an important book on his travels in Europe and North Africa, influenced presidential elections through his editorship of major newspapers, and served as judge and port surveyor of New York City. He was easily the most prominent and influential Jew in the United States during the first half of the nineteenth century. Moreover, he has been described as the first public figure “to demand continuous recognition as both a devoted American and as a devoted Jew.”
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