Everything must have a beginning which includes the wonderful world of politics. After all, even after African-Americans were freed from slavery and given rights that are guaranteed by the Constitution, it wasn’t until 2008 that the first African-American was voted into becoming the President of the United States. Although it happened centuries earlier, another first was waiting to happen in politics which didn’t occur until the 1770s. The exact date was January 11th, 1775 when Francis Salvador takes his rightful seat on the South Carolina Provincial Congress; he is the first Jewish individual in the Americas to hold an elected office.
Salvador was born in 1747 and a descendant from a line of well-known Sephardic Jews who went to London and made it their home. Joseph was his great grandfather and the first Jewish director of the East India Company. His grandfather had influence due to his bravery from assisting to move a group of 42 Jewish colonists toward Savannah, Georgia in 1733; this was despite the fact the colony prohibited Jewish settlers from coming in. The Salvador’s eventually bought land in South Carolina.
Their property in Portugal was destroyed during the Lisbon earthquake in 1755 as well as the collapse of the East India Company had put a large drain on the resources of the family; the property in America was all that they had left. Francis Salvador had to leave his children and his wife behind in 1773 in London with the hopes of creating himself in South Carolina in an attempt to rebuild the fortune that the family had lost. Salvador’s success came within just a year as he won a seat in the General Assembly of South Carolina. Continuing his success, he was elected by South Carolinians in 1774 to the revolutionary Provincial Congress and started to meet in January of 1775; Salvador spoke for the cause regarding independence in a forceful tone.
Salvador would earn the nickname of “Southern Paul Revere” on July 1st by riding 30 miles to give warning that the backcountry settlements were in danger of an attack by the Cherokee. Ironically, it was one month to the exact date that Salvador was leading a group of militia that was under the general command of Major General James Wilkinson when he and his group were taken by surprise by a group of Loyalists and Cherokees near what is presently Seneca, South Carolina. Unfortunately, he was scalped and shot by the Cherokees. While he stayed alive long enough to realize that the militia claimed victory at the engagement, he would never find out that the delegation in South Carolina to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia had listened to him; they voted on the side of independence from Britain.
Salvador became the first Jewish soldier to be recorded as being killed during the American War for Independence. Sadly, he was unable to bring over his family from London to a country that he bravely fought for; he was 29 years old when he died.