Marshall, Louis, 1856-1929Alternative names
American Jewish communal leader, lawyer.
From the description of Papers, [ca. 1900-1929]. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122516821
Lawyer, civic and communal leader, civil rights advocate, labor union meditator, and philanthropist, of New York, N.Y.
From the description of Papers, 1891-1930. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 70925069
Prominent Jewish-American lawyer and philanthropist.
From the description of Correspondence, 1916-1929 [microform]. (Brandeis University Library). WorldCat record id: 47961432
From the description of Collection, 1893-1931 [microform]. (Brandeis University Library). WorldCat record id: 43794853
Louis Marshall (1856-1929) was one of the most eminent attorneys of his generation in New York State and in the United States. He was an authority on state constitutional issues and an activist in helping to uphold the "forever wild" clause of the state constitution. Marshall spearheaded conservation efforts to protect New York's Adirondack Mountains and Catskills Mountains. At the 1894 New York State Constitutional Convention, he helped establish the New York State Forest Preserve. Marshall served as president of the board of trustees for the New York State College of Forestry (now the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry) for its first eighteen years. He was a leader in its founding, and the second building on its campus, the Louis Marshall Memorial Hall, was dedicated in his honor in 1933.
He often worked with and through the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks of which he was a trustee. Louis Marshall was also a fighter against racial, religious and ethnic discrimination of every kind and was a wise, forthright, and fearless leader of the Jews of the world.
From the description of Louis Marshall papers, 1916-1929. (New York State Historical Documents). WorldCat record id: 155426322
Louis Marshall (1856 - 1929)
Louis Marshall, corporate and constitutional lawyer and Jewish communal leader, was born in 1856 in Syracuse, New York. Both his mother, Zilli Strauss, and his father, Jacob Marshall, had immigrated to the United States from Germany. At the time of his immigration, Jacob was barely literate. Zilli was self-educated. 1 Through the experiences of his parents, Marshall came to understand and identify with the hardships faced by immigrants and by those who remained in autocratic countries.
Marshall graduated from Columbia Law School in 1877 and joined the law firm of William C. Ruger in Syracuse, New York. Between 1878 and 1894, Marshall argued over 150 cases before the Court of Appeals and rose to prominence in the Jewish community in Syracuse. He moved to New York City in 1894 when he joined the law firm of Guggenheimer and Untermyer. In New York, Marshall was intensely involved in Jewish communal affairs. By 1903, Marshall was Secretary at Temple Emanu-El, the most important Reform congregation in the United States, and in 1916, he became its president. 2 Marshall also served as chair of the Board of Directors of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. He saw no contradiction between his roles at Temple Emanu-El and the Jewish Theological Seminary, Conservative Judaism’s rabbinical school, because "to him there was one Judaism." 3
The American Jewish Committee was established in 1906 by a group of established German-Jewish leaders including Marshall 4 in order to "watch closely over legislative and diplomatic matters of interest to American-Jews and to convey to the President, State Department, and Congress, requests, information, and if need be, political threats." 5 Marshall, who would eventually become "the AJC’s major strategist and most active lobbyist," 6 became its president in 1912, a post he held until his death. In the early years of the twentieth century, pogroms and debilitating laws, especially the limiting of Jews to residence in the "Pale of Settlement," were impoverishing and endangering the Russo-Polish Jewish communities. These adverse conditions caused almost 2,500,000 Jews to immigrate to the United States between 1881 – 1925. 7 At the same time, American society was changing rapidly, becoming increasingly urbanized, industrialized and, due to massive immigration, more ethnically and religiously diverse. Reacting to the influx of immigrants, a movement was organized that called for the government to impose a restrictive immigration policy. Although the restrictionist movement was generally xenophobic and not specifically anti-Semitic, 8 its ideology threatened to substantially reduce the number of Jewish immigrants coming to America. Marshall and the AJC recognized this threat. Between 1912, when Marshall assumed the presidency of the AJC, and 1917, two presidents vetoed restrictive immigration legislation that had been passed by Congress. One of the main objections Marshall had to these bills was their literacy test provisions, which he recognized would prevent many illiterate Jews from entering the country. In 1917, although President Woodrow Wilson had vetoed the restrictive immigration bill presented to him, Congress overrode the veto and the bill became law. After 1917, Marshall continued to fight against laws that he and his associates judged to be hostile to immigration, but the restrictionists prevailed. In 1924, Congress imposed a quota system that so drastically reduced immigration, America was effectively cut off as an avenue of escape for most people who sought to immigrate.
In 1911, Marshall led the movement for the abrogation of the 1832 commercial treaty between the United States and Russia. The contested point "involved Russia’s refusal to allow native-born or naturalized American Jews to travel freely in Russia, despite the fact that they possessed American passports." 9 "Marshall…idealistically believed that abrogation would force Russia to end the Pale, to liberate Russian Jewry, and ultimately, to relieve the pressure for immigration." 10 Although the suffering of the Russian Jews did not end, the abrogation of the treaty is among Marshall’s most important achievements. 11
In 1914-15, Marshall lent his skills to the Leo Frank case. Leo Frank, who had been educated in New York State, was the Jewish manager of a pencil factory in Atlanta, Georgia. Amidst anti-Semitic hysteria, Frank had been accused and convicted, in 1914, of raping and murdering a 14-year old girl. Marshall offered legal counsel during Frank’s appeals, raised money, initiated an appeal to the Federal Supreme Court and discreetly solicited the help of influential Southerners.
In 1919, after World War One, Marshall attended the Paris Peace Conference where he helped formulate minority rights clauses for the constitutions of the newly created states of eastern Europe. 12 During his later years, Marshall attempted to stop the newspaper, The Dearborn Independent, which was owned by Henry Ford, from spreading anti-Semitic propaganda, epitomized by its popularization of the ideas found in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Marshall was also a champion of conservation, helping to found the New York State College of Forestry.
Although he did not always agree with the political Zionists, when the Balfour Declaration of 1917 was issued, Marshall worked for the establishment of a national Jewish home in Palestine. In 1929, shortly before his death, Marshall was instrumental in organizing the Jewish Agency which brought together Zionists and non-Zionists throughout the world "for the management of Jewish colonization efforts under the terms of the British mandate." 13
Cecil Roth and Geoffrey Wigoder, editors-in-chief, The Encyclopedia Judaica . (Jerusalem: The MacMillian Company, 1972), s.v. "Louis Marshall" by Morton Rosenstock.
- 1.Morton Rosenstock, Louis Marshall: Defender of Jewish Rights (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1965): 24.
- 2. Rosenstock, 31.
- 3. Rosenstock, 32.
- 4. Judith S. Goldstein, The Politics of Ethnic Pressure: The American Jewish Committee Fight Against Immigration Restriction, 1906-1917 (New York: Garland Publishing, 1990): 53.
- 5. Goldstein, 13-14.
- 6. Goldstein, 54.
- 7. Rosenstock, 12.
- 8. Rosenstock, 80-81.
- 9. Goldstein, 133
- 10. Goldstein, 135
- 11. Louis Marshall. Dictionary of American Biography Base Set; American Council of Learned Societies, 1928-1936. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center, Farmington Hills, Mich.: The Gale Group. 2003. http://www.galenet.com/servlet/BioRC
- 12. Rosenstock, 53
- 13. Rosenstock, 45
Born on December 14 in Syracuse, New York
Graduates from Columbia Law School and joins prominent Syracuse, New York law firm headed by William C. Ruger
Partner in the New York City law firm of Guggenheimer, Untermeyer and Marshall
Marries Florence Lowenstein
Appointed chairman of a commission investigating slum conditions on New York City’s Lower East Side
Appointed chairman of the Commission of Immigration of New York State
Acts as mediator in cloak-makers’ strike in New York City
Successfully leads campaign to abrogate the U.S.-Russian Commercial Treaty of 1832
Assumes presidency of the American Jewish Committee
Smith-Burnett immigration bill vetoed by President William Howard Taft
Joins legal staff on Leo Frank case and initiates appeal of case to Federal Supreme Court
Immigration Bill vetoed by President Woodrow Wilson
Florence Lowenstein dies
Immigration Act of 1917 vetoed by President Wilson. Congress overrides veto. Literacy Test, albeit with Marshall’s exemption clause, becomes law
Delegate to the Paris Peace Conference; arbitrator in clothing-workers’ strike
Attempts to block Dearborn Independent’s publication of anti-Semitic propaganda.
Emergency Immigration Quota Act becomes law
Helps reverse Harvard University’s announced intention to impose a quota on Jews
Immigration Quota Law of 1924 becomes law.
Dies in Zurich, Switzerland on September the age of 72
Sources for Chronology
Isaac Landman, ed. The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia . (New York: Universal Jewish Encyclopedia Inc., 1942), s.v, "Louis Marshall" by Nathan Caro Belth.
Cecil Roth and Geoffrey Wigoder, editors-in-chief, The Encyclopedia Judaica . (Jerusalem: The MacMillian Company, 1972), s.v., "Louis Marshall" by Morton Rosenstock.
From the guide to the Louis Marshall Papers, undated, 1905-1933, (American Jewish Historical Society)
|Place Name||Admin Code||Country|
|Salmon River (N.Y.)|
|New York (State)|
|Niagara River (N.Y. and Ont.)|
|Adirondack Mountains (N.Y.)|
|New York (State)--New York|
|Adirondack Park (N.Y.)|
|New York (State)--New York|
|Adirondack Forest Preserve (N.Y.)|
|New York (State)--Adirondack Park|
|New York (State)--New York|
|World War, 1914-1918|
|Water resources development|
|Conservation of natural resources|
|Mediation and conciliation--Industrial|
|Civil rights workers--United States|
|Civic leaders--New York (State)--New York|
|Philanthropists--New York (State)--New York|
|Jewish lawyers--New York (State)--New York|