William E Blackstone and his role in birthing the nation of Israel


Abraham Sekhar
July 21, 2019

US Middle East Foreign Policy



The Protestant Reformation of the 16th century brought the expectation, that the Jews would play an important role in the end times. The English revolution in the mid-seventeenth century resulted in Protestant messianic groups that read scriptures in a more literal manner and saw that the Jews were heirs to the Abrahamic covenant (Gen.12:2-3, NIV). Thus, the return of Jews to Palestine was founded on the basis of scripture.  In the 19th century, Christian Zionism came to life again. In Europe, the messianic schools were “historic”, interpreting scriptural passages with current events, while the faith in its “futurist” dispensationalist form, became widely accepted in America in the latter half of the 19th century. In this research paper, we present a concise analysis on how among the nineteenth century American Zionists, William E Blackstone came up with an initiative to take an active role to help bring about Jewish national restoration in Palestine. We present his religious beliefs and the historic events which motivated his support for Jewish restoration, as well as the long-term consequences and shaping of US Foreign policy in this paper(Ariel, Y. S. 2007).

Prof. Shawn Akers’ presentation on ‘Zionism in the US’, similarly, traces the origin of the belief that Israel is the ancient homeland of the Jews, to the covenant that God made with Abraham in Gen.12:2-3, in confirmation of which, Abraham purchased the cave of Machpelah. Cotton Mather’s father (the early Puritan clergyman), was the first to adopt this worldview.His presentation on ‘The Two Blackstones’  traces the idea further back to the Middle East, the birthplace of the Judeo-Christian world view, and the Bible, from where W. Blackstone, the British Jurist, built his philosophy of Law(Strauss, Leo, 1987, pp 622-632), which influenced the Founding Fathers. This created the political will to help the Jews establish their homeland and escape the persecution they were facing, through Louis Brandeis and W.E. Blackstone, and later by others like Herzl, Balfour and Lord Shaftesbury in Europe (Akers, S. (n.d.)).

Religious Beliefs and Historic Events

Biographical overview of William E. Blackstone

Blackstone, born in Adams, New York, in 1841, became a successful businessman at a young age. After attending the Niagara conference in 1878, dedicated to the Jew’s return to Palestine, he became a strong restorationist (Oren, M. B. 2007, p 278). His dispensational view of biblical prophecy for the reestablishment of national Israel led him to be one among the pre-millennialist leaders like Moody, Brookes and Spafford. He founded the ‘American Colony in Jerusalem’, and the ‘Chicago Hebrew Mission’ in 1887, for the evangelization of Jews. In 1908, he wrote the best seller, ‘Jesus is coming’, which established him as a well-known dispensational Bible teacher. Blackstone says in the book, that nothing else is so plainly stated in scriptures,than the Israelites being restored to Canaan and Jerusalem rebuilt (Ice, T. D. 2009).

Blackstone’s convictions

The relationship between the Jews and Messianic Protestants, has been a “marriage of convenience” (Ariel, Y. S. 2006). The Jews have never been able to make the connection between the Servant of God (Isa. Ch. 48 -57, NIV), and the King with the government upon His shoulders (Isa.9:6, NIV). But to Blackstone, the connection was very evident, as he fills up 14 pages of his book with scriptural citations. Today, his contribution has been recognized in Israel, and a forest has been named after him (Ice, T. D. 2009). His conviction was, that, just as surely as the prophecies regarding Messiah’s first coming were fulfilled without exception, the same would be true of the prophecies that speak of the restoration of the Jews to their homeland hastening the second comingof Messiah (Additional Scriptural references).

Historic Events

In 1889, his visit to Palestine opened his eyes, when he witnessed the developments, that the first wave of Zionist immigration brought to the country that he thought was desolate. Agricultural settlements and new neighborhoods in Jerusalem signified to him a ‘sign of the times’ (Matt.24:32, NIV).On his return from Palestine, he organized ‘the conference on the past, present and future of Israel’ in 1890. The participants unanimously passed ‘resolutions’ of sympathy with the oppressed Jews of Russia, reading, ‘The President of the US is to be petitioned to confer with the Queen of England, the Emperor of Germany, the Sultan of Turkey, the President of the French republic and many other rulers of Europe, on the propriety of calling an international conference to consider the condition of the Jews in modern nations, and the possibility of opening a way for their restoration in Palestine’. He brought the conference to a close by calling upon Christian leaders to repent of anti-Semitism, and affirmed the shared Judeo-Christian Biblical heritage (Moorhead, J. (2010).

Long term consequences of his beliefs and policy recommendations for Diaspora Jewry and USFP in the Middle East

Having a deep conviction that the great events of the End time would occur soon, he decided to take an active role to bring about Jewish restoration to Palestine, and organized a petition in 1891, urging President Harrison of the United States to call for an international conference of world powers, that would give Palestine back to the Jews. More than 400 prominent Americans signed the petition. He asserted, that the US had a special role and mission in God’s plan for humanity, that of a modern Cyrus (which is spoken of Trump again). With the combined effort of Christian Zionists and the Jewish Zionist movement, and endorsement from major Protestant churches, Blackstone organized a second petition in 1916, calling upon President Wilson to help restore Palestine to the Jews.

The Blackstone Memorial

With the limited outcome of the conference (1891), Blackstone set in motion the historical Memorial to President Harrison. The preparation, presentation, the response and the impact of the Memorial are all remarkable. Its impact on American Policy is questionable. But it brought American awareness of the increasing persecution in Russia for Jews from 1882-1890. ‘The Pale of Settlement’ forced 750,000 Jews out of St. Petersburg, through bloody pogroms (Rood, P. W. (n.d.). President Harrison discussed the suffering of Jews in Russia, and one can see the influence of the Memorial in his discussions, and in Herzl’s Jewish State writings after 5 years. Blackstone continued presenting the modified Memorial to future Presidents, garnering a world coalition for Israel. More than the Memorial being just a document, it was a practical step towards the realization of the ideal of Zionism, and the first real instance of political Zionist action in the country. It did affect America’s foreign policy towards Israel, when President Wilson accepted the Balfour declaration stating Britain’s approval of a national home for the Jews in Palestine, which, was the first event that sent shock waves around the world. When Herzl was considering Jewish refugee settlements in Cyprus, Sinai or British East Africa, Blackstone sent him a Hebrew Tanach showing through the prophets, the promise of regathering diaspora Jews in their ancient homeland (Rood, P. W. (n.d.).

Louis Brandeis understood the importance of the Blackstone’s Memorial of 1891. He also understood the Memorial was the key to Wilson’s support for restoration and Zionism. Brandeis used Blackstone and the Memorial, to advance Zionist goals. Blackstone used Brandeis and the Memorial, to advance his religious goals. Brandeis said of (Blackstone’s) work, “you are the Father of Zionism, as your work antedates Herzl” (Klinger, J. 2010).

Relevance of the policy recommendations and beliefs to USFP today

It is thus known, that Israel’s founding was preceded by more than 50 years of efforts to establish a sovereign state as a homeland for the Jewish people. Subsequent to the 1917 Balfour Declaration, following the end of World War I (1914-1918), the League of Nations entrusted Great Britain, with the Mandate for Palestine.On Dec. 9th, British forces under General Allenby captured Jerusalem from the Ottomans. For Blackstone, this was a moment to celebrate, before his passing in 1935.After the end of the British mandate on May 14, 1948, the State of Israel was proclaimed, and the U.S. was the first country to recognize Israel as a state in 1948, and the first to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in 2017 subsequently. The American foreign policy in maintaining the close bond with Israel has never changed (U.S.-ISRAEL RELATIONS-Department of State).

During the most difficult moments in the Jewish collective memory is the knowledge, that, when everyone tried to wipe the Jewish race, no one came to the rescue, but the fact, that the largest and strongest country in the history of the world stood by its side is nothing less than momentous. The American Government’s commitment to standby Israel in all circumstances has a deep root grown over the years by the influences of history makers like Blackstone (Lapid, Y. 2016).

The following remarkable quotes of Michael Pompeo consolidate and clarify what we have stated thus far, “…. this isn’t a new development.  Christian support in America for Zion – for a Jewish homeland ‒ runs back to the early Puritan settlers, and it has endured for centuries.  Indeed, our second president, a couple years back (sic), said, quote, “I really wish the Jews again in Judea an independent nation,” end of quote.And then a little more recently, now just over a hundred years ago, 1916, a prominent American evangelist named William Blackstone helped to convince President Woodrow Wilson to support the Balfour Declaration.  That was the United Kingdom’s own statement of support for, quote, “a national home for the Jewish people….” (Pompeo, M.R. 2019).


“No enactment of man can be considered law unless it conforms to the Law of God”

 – Reverend William Blackstone

Rev. Blackstone and the Memorial are almost forgotten today. Historians of American Zionism and of Brandeis, almost never mention Blackstone. Modern historiography is uncomfortable with fundamentalist Christianity, and its support for Israel, and with Christian faith-based decisions in an age of political correctness facing Islamist fundamentalist challenges. The role and relationship of Zionism, Christianity and faith, as factors in history, needs to be fairly and honestly considered (Klinger, J. (2010, August).While world views have changed remarkably in forgetting the seeds sown and efforts made by Blackstone or Brandeis, we witness, that God has placed President Trump and Vice President Pence in such positions in our times, in the government, to talk and take actions on restoring the rights of Israel, and stand for her in this modern-day adverse scenario (Rood, P. 2013). Surely Trump is the Cyrus of our day.The Word of God is alive in all seasons, and the world will witness the fulfilment of all that is written and said, as it had been through many ages (Aldrovandi, C. 2011).


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Additional Scriptural References:

Deut.30:5; Isa.11:11-12; Jer.23:3-8; Ezek.37:21-25; Isa.60:18-21; Jer.23:6; Jer.24:5-6; Jer.30:18; Jer.31:31-34; Jer.32:37-40; Jer.33:6-9; Ezek.28:25-26; Ezek.34:11-12; Ezek.36:24-26; Ezek.39:28; Hos.3:4-5; Joel 2:18-29; Amos 9:14-15; Mic.2:12; Mic.4:6-7; Zeph.3:19-20; Zech.8:7-8; Zech.13:8-9, Acts 1:6-8; Acts 3:20-21; Acts 15:14-16; Luke 21:24; Rom.11:25-26; Rom.11:1,29; Luke:2:30-34; Matt.5:17-18; Rom.11:12,15; Ps.102:16; Rom.11:32-36.