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Moses Michael Hays

Moses Michael Hays[1, 2]

Male 1739 - 1805  (66 years)

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  • Name Moses Michael Hays  [3, 4, 5, 6
    Born 9 Mar 1739  New York, New York (Manhattan), NY Find all individuals with events at this location  [3, 4
    Gender Male 
    Arrival 1769  Newport, Newport, RI Find all individuals with events at this location 
    from New York 
    Arrival 1780  Boston, MA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    from Newport, RI 
    Reference Number 609 
    Buried 1805  Colonial Jewish Burial Ground, Newport, RI Find all individuals with events at this location  [5
    Died 9 May 1805  Boston, MA Find all individuals with events at this location  [3, 4, 5, 7
    Person ID I609  aojd
    Last Modified 14 Nov 2011 

    Father Judah Hays,   b. 1703,   d. 19 Aug 1764, New York Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 61 years) 
    Family ID F228  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Notes 
      1. American National Biography Online
      Published on: 2/6/2000 Last Visited: 9/28/2000
      Hays, Moses Michael American National Biography Online
      Hays, Moses Michael (9 Mar. 1739-9 May 1805), Jewish merchant and Masonic leader, was born in New York City, the oldest of the eight children of Judah Hays, a Dutch merchant who had come to that city in 1733, and Rebecca Michaels Hays, the daughter of New York merchant Moses Michaels. Hays, Moses Michael (9 Mar. 1739-9 May 1805), Jewish merchant and Masonic leader, was born in New York City, the oldest of the eight children of Judah Hays, a Dutch merchant who had come to that city in 1733, and Rebecca Michaels Hays, the daughter of New York merchant Moses Michaels.
      By 1766 Hays had started his own business and marketed several kinds of products, including watches that he made and sold in the New York vicinity ; that year, he also sold flour and other food products to Barnard and Michael Gratz of Philadelphia. In 1767 he began to deal with Aaron Lopez of Newport ; Hays sold to the Rhode Island merchant linens, woolen goods, and barrel staves and bought from him spermaceti oil for distribution in New York markets. In the year that the aggressive Hays was made a freeman, 1769, he made a lucrative return in the same markets by selling sugar from the West Indies.

      Hays, who considered the business climate of Newport to be superior to that of New York, moved his family in 1769 to Rhode Island and remained based in Newport for about twelve years. In the year of his arrival there, he established a partnership with Myer Polock. Hays and Polock built ships that transported large cargoes of fish, meats, and other foods from the American colonies to ports in Europe and in the Caribbean. Because of the acute decline of the colonial economy, which resulted from the imposition of the British taxes associated with the Townshend Acts, the firm of Hays and Polock suffered severe setbacks and was constrained in 1771 to declare bankruptcy. The next year, Hays obtained credit and loans and started a new business. For approximately the next eight years, he successfully operated a general merchandising store, which sold to Newport customers stationery, candles, clothes, groceries, liquor, and hardware.

      Hays became involved with matters relating to the American Revolution in several ways. Having previously signed a statement of loyalty to the united American colonies in their war against Great Britain, he at first refused to take an oath of allegiance to the revolutionary cause required by an act of the Rhode Island Assembly in June 1776. Hays sent to the assembly on 17 July a detailed letter explaining that he objected to the administering of the loyalty oath because, according to his argument, both the Second Continental Congress and colonial legislatures had failed to extend natural liberties and citizenship rights to Jews. He proposed that the Rhode Island Assembly should empower Jews with the right to vote and grant them privileges conferred on other free citizens before compelling them to take the oath. Hays ultimately yielded and not only took the loyalty oath but also became an ardent supporter of the revolutionary cause, unlike other Jewish merchants in Newport, such as Myer Polock and Isaac Hart, who held to their Tory sympathies. Between 1777 and 1779, Hays provided the Continental army with food supplies and with military clothing and equipment. In 1779 he left Newport, which was occupied by the British, and lived for about a year in South Kingston, Rhode Island. Hays at this time purchased shares in the Iris, an armed Massachusetts ship that carried goods to be used by soldiers in the revolutionary army. In 1780 he returned to Newport to reside.

      Hays went to Boston in 1782 and spent the later years of his active career there, becoming a wealthy man through his various endeavors. During the early 1780s, he developed a lucrative import and export business. With his headquarters on Boston's Long Wharf, he imported sugar and molasses from the West Indies and profitably exported fish, whale oil, and lumber products to merchants in European ports. He even began in 1783 to trade with merchants in China. That same year, he became a broker, engaging in foreign currency trading, extending loans to exporters and importers and purchasing and selling discounted notes. As a result of his familiarity with financial matters, Hays in 1784 participated in the founding of the Bank of Massachusetts. During the early 1790s, the ambitious Hays turned to insurance and became a successful underwriter of fire and marine insurance ; in 1798 he became one of the founders of the Massachusetts Fire Insurance Company.

      Hays also helped to foster religious and fraternal institutions. In 1767-1768 he served as second parnas, or vice president, of New York's Shearith Israel Congregation. Later, he became an active member of Newport's Yeshuat Israel Congregation. Freemasonry was similarly of great importance to Hays. Involved in low-degree Masonry, which consisted of the order's first three degrees, he served in 1769 as the first master of King David's Lodge of New York and eleven years later reestablished the lodge in Newport. During his years in Rhode Island, he succeeded in recruiting to the ranks of Freemasonry Moses Seixas and other prominent Jews who backed the cause of the American Revolution. Thereafter, he was affiliated with the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, serving between 1788 and 1792 as its grand master.

      Hays likewise played an important role in high-degree Masonry, a movement with dramatic ceremonies that provided both Jewish and Christian Masons with new roles and titles. On 6 December 1768 he was named in Albany a deputy inspector general for North America and the West Indies and was authorized to name others to the same position. On 25 June 1781 he presided over an important session of the Philadelphia Lodge of Perfection, which then consisted primarily of Jewish members but would become during the 1780s religiously assimilated. Empowered to confer degrees four through fourteen, Hays appointed as deputy inspectors on this occasion Isaac DaCosta, Samuel Myers, and other prominent Jewish refugees who came to Philadelphia to escape British persecution during the War of Independence. The high degrees conferred by Hays accentuated salient events, themes, and legends from ancient Jewish history. Moreover, they provided meaningful and vivid explanations of Masonic doctrines concerning natural liberties, religious toleration, and civic equality.

      Hays died in Boston. He was buried in the family plot in Newport's Jewish Cemetery five years before his wife was laid to rest there.

      As an energetic and enterprising person engaged in trade, Hays developed ties with a network of merchants who fostered the exchange of goods both within the American colonies and overseas. Keen to sense opportunity following the American Revolution, he expanded his activities into finance and insurance. The candid, cordial Hays was, however, as notable for his convictions as he was for his business acumen. Although he tried in vain to persuade the Rhode Island legislature to extend the full complement of civil rights to Jews within the boundaries of the colony (and later the state), his allegiance to the revolutionary cause was unstinting. (Rhode Island did not grant complete emancipation to Jews until 1842.) But Hays is known above all for his role in the Freemasonry movement during revolutionary times and in the early years of the Republic. Even as he helped make Freemasonry an effective conduit for the assimilation of Jews, he saw it as a significant means of achieving Jewish civic emancipation, itself a revolutionary doctrine.

      The American Jewish Archives, the American Jewish Historical Society, and the American Philosophical Society house some of Hays's business letters. For adequate accounts of his life, see Jacob R. Marcus, Early American Jewry : The Jews of New York, New England, and Canada, 1694-1794, vol. 1 (1951), which effectively describes his business activities, and Harry Smith and J. Hugo Tatsch, Moses Michael Hays : Merchant, Citizen, and Freemason, 1739-1805 (1937), which contains some information about his business activities. Some information about Hays's involvement with his father in New York business affairs appears in Harold Korn, Receipt Book of Judah and Moses M. Hays, Commencing January 12, 1763, and Ending July 18, 1776, Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society 28 (1922) : 223-29.

      Anne Joseph:
      PORTRAIT IN SCRAPBOOK ------------------------ The portrait of Moses Michael Hays is reported by Hannah London in her 1926 book Portrait of Jews. At that time it was said to be at the Masonic Temple in Boston. This is an unattributed copy of the original painted by Gilbert Stuart, which was destroyed.

      Moses Michael Hays was born in New York in 1738. He settled in Newport and established himself later in business in Boston, where he died on 9 May 1805.

      Source: Hannah London ------------------------ Moses Michael Hays was born on March 9, 1739 in New York by Stern, a difference of one year from the date recorded by London. For some unknown reason FTM records 1738/39. ------------------------ Moses Michael Hays and his wife Rachel arrived in Newport, Rhode Island, from New York in 1769. His father, Judah Hays, was among the earliest of the Sephardic Jewish families to arrive in the New World from Spain via Holland.

      Moses Michael became a wealthy merchant and is recognized as one of the first to introduce Free Masonry (King David's Lodge) to Rhode Island and later Massachusetts. The Hays and Myers families are also part of the original benefactors of Newport's Touro Synagogue, the oldest synagogue in America.

      Hays is best known as challenging the early Rhode Island General Assembly request that several of Newport's most prominent Jews sign a declaration of loyalty to the American Colonies in 1777. Hays refused, in a letter and public testimony at the Newport State House (now known as the Old Colony House), particularly objecting to the phrase "upon the true faith of a Christian". Only when the phrase was omitted did he sign the declaration. This act is seen by many historians as one of the first religious and civil rights defenses in the fledging new demoncracy. Because of the British occupation of Newport during the war, Hays moved to Kingston, Jamaica, then to Boston, and was later joined by his widowed sister Reyna Touro and her young children Abraham, Judah and Rebecca. This extended family of Hays and Touro prospered, living in the North end of Boston on the fashionable Middle Street (now Hanover Street).

      Source: ------------------------ Among the grandsons of Judah Hays were David Sarzedas and Judah Touro. David Sarzedas served as first lieutenant in the Georgia Brigade in the Revolutionary was (White's Statistics of Georgia"). Judah Touro became known throughout America as a philanthropist.

      Source: Jewish Encyclopaedia [8]
    • (Research):AJLLJ Portraits Database 5 Aug 2011

      Born in New York City, Moses Michael Hays was the son of Dutch immigrants, Judah Hays and Rebecca Michaels Hays. His father, a merchant, brought him into business, and Moses too would make an impressive name for himself in shipping and retail.
           On August 13, 1766, Hays married Rachel Myers in a double wedding, as her sister Rebecca married Solomon Marache. In 1769 the couple moved to Newport, booming from international shipping, where Hays continued to pursue his fortunes in mercantilism. Meanwhile, Hays became involved with New York synagogue Shearith Israel, and served as parnas in 1767.
           Success for Hays in Newport, however, was proving more elusive, and he ended up briefly in debtor's prison. After managing to pay back his creditors, Hays succeeded in reestablishing himself in trade.
           With the Revolution on the horizon, Hays became a supporter of the American cause. However, in 1775 he refused to sign a declaration of loyalty to the colonies, because it contained the wording, "upon the true faith of the Christian." He instead wrote a public letter explaining his support for the cause and why he couldn't sign. When the phrase had been removed from the oath, he gladly appended his name.
           Meanwhile, Hays and his family evacuated the city before the British occupation of Newport. Arriving in Boston, he perhaps did not realize that he would call it home for the rest of his life. But the city seemed to suit Hays, and his luck in business vastly improved. One of the largest importers, shipbuilders and insurers in the Far East trade, in 1784 Hays became founder and initial depositor in the First Bank of Massachusetts. In addition he founded several companies, including one with friend Paul Revere.
           Hays engaged as well with freemasonry, and he helped establish the masons in New England. He was admitted to the Massachusetts lodge in 1782, a rare accomplishment for a Jew. A decade later, Hays was serving as grandmaster, Paul Revere his deputy. Hays also proved himself an important philanthropist for the city of Boston, helping to endow Harvard College, building theaters in Boston and paying for the upkeep of Boston Commons.
           In addition to Moses and Rachel's seven children, Hays had taken in his sister Reyna Touro and her four children after her husband died. When she too passed away in 1787, Hays took full responsibility for the upbringing of his nieces and nephews, including Judah and Abraham Touro. They lived in a fifteen-room brick house, which was frequented by, among other guests, Samuel May, grandfather of Lousia May Alcott and childhood friend of the Hays and Touro children. Years later, thinking back on his visits, he recalled:

      If the children of my day were taught among other foolish things to dread, if not despise Jews, a very different lesson was impressed upon my young heart. … [The Hays] house … was the abode of hospitality. … He and his truly good wife were hospitable, not to the rich alone, but also to the poor. … I witnessed their religious exercise, their fastings and their prayers. … [As a result] I grew up without prejudice against Jews---or any other religionists. [9]

  • Sources 
    1. [S81] .

    2. [S285] .

    3. [S4] PG. 104 HAYS (1) (Reliability: 3).
      QUAY 3

    4. [S4] PG. 104 HAYS (1) (Reliability: 3).

    5. [S335] (Reliability: 3).


    7. [S336] PG. 1 (Reliability: 3).


    9. [S294] HAYS, MOSES MICHAEL (Reliability: 3).