Wednesday, October 18, 2006

William Mallory Levy (1827-1882): The Biography- Part I

My research into the life of William Mallory Levy has reached a dead end. Despite inquiries in Virginia and Louisiana, I cannot confirm whether or not Levy was Jewish. Nevertheless, here is a brief biography of controversial nineteenth century figure.

Levy was born in Isle of Wight, Virginia on October 30, 1827. In 1844 he graduated from William & Mary College where he studied law. In May 1846, Levy joined the Portsmouth Company of Volunteers, known as Co. F of the First Regiment of Virginia Volunteers, and served as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Mexican War. A letter written by Levy in Mexico in July 1847 sent home to Portsmouth was sold at auction in 2003. Levy wrote "What a changeful life this is! I am on the battlefield of Buena Vista, you at home in the midst of friends. I supposed the damned war will not last always. I wish to God we could have a good fight and be done with it, for I pledge you my word I am getting devilish tired of Mexico." Soon after his unit's return from Mexico in August 1848, Levy announced that he had assumed the "editorial management" of Portsmouth's Chronicle and Old Dominion newspaper. At the same time, Levy publicly declared his change from the Whig to the Democratic Party. Explaining his switch, Levy stated that in "his connection with the army, in capacity of an officer..., he was convinced by a conviction of duty to his country, and the honest belief of the practical adaptation of measures entertained and avowed by the Democratic party to the good of the country, and to the proper and just administration of the government.." In January 1849, only four months after becoming editor, Levy resigned from management of the Chronicle and Old Dominion. For a time, until June 1849, he served as the second clerk for the Navy Storekeeper at Portsmouth. Around 1850, he married Catherine and they had a daughter Katie. About the same time, Levy was admitted to the Virginia bar and opened a law office in Portsmouth. Levy became active in local politics, serving on a Committee of Vigilance and as clerk of Portsmouth upon its incorporation as a town early in 1852.

In 1852, the family moved to Natchitoches, Louisiana where Levy worked as a lawyer and editor of the Natchitoches Chronicle. In 1859, he was elected to the Louisiana state legislature. The following year, Levy opened the firm of Levy & Dranguet with Natchitoches attorney Charles F. Dranguet. Perhaps indicating Levy's status in Lousiana's Democratic Party, Levy was named a presidential elector for Breckenridge's pro-slavery, National (southern) Democrat ticket in 1860. Prior to the outbreak of the war, Levy became friendly with William Tecumsah Sherman who was serving as superintendant of the Military Acadmey of Louisiana located in an adjacent parish.


Cal said...

Do you think that WML was son or grandson of Keziah Mallory Harvey Levy and Lazarus Levy? Kezia was married previous to Benjamin Harvey and they had two sons one of which was William Mallory Harvey. Keziah's father was Capt. John Mallory and her mother may have been Mary Cutchin(s). The Mallory's lived in Newport Parish, Isle of Wight Co., VA and the Harvey's were from Perquimans Co., NC. The Mallory's may have been or at least possibly supported the Quakers of IofW.
Look for Pagan Creek meeting house.
These and many other early quakers have been rumoured to have been crypto-jewish covers. But who really cares? I mean wasn't one of this country's founding assets the idea of Freedom of Religion?

DRW said...

Cal: As I mention in sect. III, Levy' parents were John Levy and Emeline Butts. It seems quite possible that John's parents were Lazarus Levy and Keziah Mallory. Do you have any dates for them? My guess is that there is no Jewish connection, but I originally approached this research from that angle with the idea of "discovering" a forgotten Southern Jewish public figure for an article I proposed. I didn't pursue that avenue further, but felt that the preliminary research was worth posting publicly through my blog. Thanks for reading and commenting.