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January 6: Haym Salomon

Lawrence Bush
January 6, 2010

Haym Solomon FullC169457D0000-00-00Haym Salomon, a significant financier of the American Revolution, died on this day in 1785. Well-traveled and fluent in several languages, he immigrated from Poland to New York City in the mid-1770s, 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. There he served the French consul as paymaster for French troops in the colonies. He was also active in the Philadelphia Jewish community and helped overturn Pennsylvania laws barring non-Christians from holding public office. In 1781, when Robert Morris was appointed to establish the Bank of North America, Morris 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. 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, in part because of his purchases of more than $600,000 in unpaid government debt.
“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

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.