How a Jewish Man Saved the American Revolution


During the Revolutionary War, our new nation faced a financial crisis.  The colonies had no money to pay for the war and the prospects of raising funds were dismal, at best.

Colonial troops had not been paid the money due them, so protests ensued.  Some officers even surrounded the Continental Congress and held it ransom, trying to get what was promised the troops for years of hardship, struggle and deprivation. Our young country was very near imploding from within after all the years of bloodshed, sacrifice, and valiant commitment to the dream of liberty.

Enter Robert Morris: the richest man in America who would later become known as “The Financier of the Revolution.”  Alarmed by the situation, he met with General George Washington about raising money to pay for the war.  Morris brought along his friend, Haym Salomon. These two largely unknown patriots sacrificed their entire personal fortunes to sustain the fledgling United States from an early and certain doom, and died paupers doing it.

Haym Salomon was born the son of a rabbi in Poland in 1740. Growing up, his family was persecuted for being Jewish. He traveled all over Europe for ten years only to find that the Jews were persecuted in every country he visited. However, in spite of this, he managed to earn an international reputation as an exceptionally skilled banker, merchant and financial broker, fluent in eight languages.

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In 1775, Haym immigrated to America, hoping to find a place where Jews were not persecuted. He established himself in New York City as a financial broker for merchants engaged in overseas trade.

Haym was overcome with joy in the new atmosphere of liberty that was fostered in the colonies. He enthusiastically joined the New York branch of the Sons of Liberty. In Sept 1776, he was arrested by the British as a spy, but was pardoned so they could use him as an interpreter for the Hessian soldiers. In this position, he helped prisoners of the British escape and encouraged Hessians to desert.

In 1778, Haym was arrested again and accused of planning to burn the British royal fleet in New York harbor, which was punishable by hanging. He managed to bribe some guards and escape.

Haym secretly moved his family to the rebel capital in Philadelphia and safely re-established himself as a broker in his new home.  His reputation for absolute honesty and integrity spread rapidly.

Haym offered his services to the Continental Congress, and in 1779, he responded to George Washington’s desperate request by raising $400,000 to pay the soldiers and save the Continental army. In addition, he quietly arranged for loans and grants to assist James Madison, James Monroe and others working diligently toward American independence from Britain.

When Robert Morris was appointed the Superintendent of Finance for the Thirteen Colonies in 1780, he knew he would need Haym’s keen financial finesse to help him raise funds to save the Revolution.

One day Morris arrived at Haym’s office and told him that the situation was desperate and unless hundreds of thousands of dollars were raised immediately, the war would be lost. When Haym asked him how long they had, Morris said “days.”

Two days later, Haym arrived at Morris’ office with a satchel in hand and drew out two documents. “Will this help?” he asked. Morris was amazed. The documents were negotiable notes for more than $92,000. “You have no idea,” Morris said, “The government must pay a debt of $100,000 by noon tomorrow.”  With that, Haym said, “I will be back soon.”

Five days later, Haym arrived with another $350,000 in notes. When Morris asked how he raised that much money so quickly, Haym said, “They are subsidies from Holland and France. They are much interested in our Revolution and want us to succeed.” Morris said, “It takes weeks to communicate with brokers in Europe. How did you acquire these subsidies?”  Haym replied, “I know their representatives here in Philadelphia. They were gracious enough to accept my personal guarantees in these matters.” Morris shook his head in disbelief, “How much is your commission in these transactions?” Haym tossed a hand indifferently, “Nothing, No commission.” Morris asked, “You’re giving your commission to the cause?” Haym replied, “This is my country, my home. It is little enough that I do. I’ll be back next week.”

During the months that followed, Haym returned regularly to the office of Robert Morris with more funds.  In the three years from 1781 to 1784, he brokered more than seventy-five financial transactions for the war effort. The funds provided hundreds of thousands of dollars for ammunition, muskets, cannons, food, medicine, and other provisions for the Continental Army, as well as pay for the soldiers and officials who were carrying the war on their shoulders.

He committed his own personal fortune of hundreds of thousands of dollars to the cause. He worked long, arduous hours traveling to New York, Boston, and other cities to meet with representatives of foreign banks and institutions. Salomon went to France and raised an additional 3.5 million British pounds from the Sassoon and Rothschild banking houses and families.

In the last weeks of 1784, Haym’s health began to fail. Doctors diagnosed him with TB and ordered complete bed rest. Still, he worked on, driven by his love of liberty and his new country. Haym died on January 6, 1785, at the age of 45. Only George Washington, Robert Morris, and a handful of patriots knew how much Haym Salomon had done to save the new nation.

Morris and Salomon sacrificed their entire personal fortunes to rescue the fledgling American nation and died paupers. Without the efforts of these two men, the nation would not have survived.  They lived out the last sentence of the Declaration of Independence, “We mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our Sacred Honor.”

The Lord said to Abram, “… I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you” -Genesis 12

*Article by Susan Frickey

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