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“Financier of the Revolutionary War”

January 6, 2018

Haym Salomon, often referred to as “the financier of the Revolutionary War,” died on this date in 1785. Born in Poland (circa 1740), but a descendant of Jews who had fled the Spanish Inquisition, he immigrated to New York City in 1775, became a financial broker, and joined the Sons of Liberty. Believed to have been arrested twice as a spy by the British, he contracted tuberculosis in prison but managed to escape hanging and flee to Philadelphia. Salomon was active in that city’s Jewish community and helped overturn Pennsylvania laws barring non-Christians from holding public office. In 1781, when Robert Morris (in the statue standing to the right of George Washington, with Salomon on Washington’s left) was appointed to establish the Bank of North America, he relied on patriotic financiers like Salomon to broker the government’s various currencies and lend their own money to the government, which had no taxation powers. In addition, Salomon personally advanced funds to members of the Continental Congress, including James Madison, who noted, “I have for some time . . . been a pensioner on the favor of Haym Salomon, a Jew broker.” The “Jew broker” was penniless at his death, however, in part because the government was unable to repay the more than $600,000 (by some calculations about twenty million dollars in 2018 terms ) in loans he had made it.

“When Morris was appointed Superintendent of Finance, he turned to Salomon for help in raising the money needed to carry on the war and later to save the emerging nation from financial collapse. Salomon advanced direct loans to the government and also gave generously of his own resources to pay the salaries of government officials and army officers. With frequent entries of ‘I sent for Haym Salomon,’ Morris’ diary for the years 1781-84 records some 75 transactions between the two men.” —The Congressional Record, March 25, 1975