Born in 1841, William E. Blackstone, a Chicago businessman, was an American Christian Zionist and an active member of the American Evangelical community. He saw the mass persecution of Russian Jewry and decided to dedicate himself to restoring a Jewish polity in Palestine.
In 1878 William Blackstone wrote the bestseller “Jesus is Coming,” selling millions of copies and establishing himself as an authority on Biblical prophecy worldwide. In 1889 Blackstone visited Palestine and, in anguish, followed the terrible news of Tsarist Russia’s persecution of 2 million Jews worsening. He knew he had to act. His determination came from his prophetic beliefs as well as his strong humanitarianism.
In 1890 Blackstone hosted a large conference, “On the Past, Present, and Future of Israel,” in Chicago attended by hundreds of delegates, including a large presence of American rabbis. This produced the famous “Blackstone Petition,” submitted to US President Benjamin Harrison in March 1891. The petition carried the signatures of more than 400 of the US’s most prominent citizens: industrialists, politicians, clergymen, judges, press magnates. Its aim was to persuade President Harrison to use his influence with European nations, the Ottoman Empire, and Russia to facilitate the release of Russian Jews so that they might settle again in the Land of Israel.
The “Blackstone Memorial” was a significant development in international relations and was widely discussed by the press throughout the US and across both Christian and Jewish Europe. This helped direct eyes “Zionward.” A generation later, the future Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis requested a Second Memorial from Blackstone, which was privately presented to President Woodrow Wilson in 1917, serving as a major influence on President Wilson’s and America’s support for the 1917 Balfour Declaration. Thus, the Blackstone Petition stands as the greatest political act of Christian Zionism in 19th-century America.
William E. Blackstone, a man whose fight for the Jewish people was righteous and just.