1740 - 1785
US Revolutionary War Financier
Born in Lissa, Prussia-Poland about 1745 and died in Philadelphia, PA in 1785. He settled in Philadelphia some years before the revolution as a merchant and banker and succeeded in accumulating a large fortune, which he subsequently devoted to the use of the American Government during the War for Independence. He negotiated all the war subsidies obtained during that struggle from France and Holland, which he endorsed and sold in bills to American merchants at a credit of two and three months on his personal security, receiving for his commission one quarter of a percent.
He also acted as paymaster general of the French forces in the United States, and for some time lent money to the agents or ministers of several foreign states when their own sources of supply were cut off. It is asserted that over $100,000 advanced has never been repaid. To the US Government Mr. Solomon lent about $600,000 in specie, and at his death about $400,000 of this amount had not been repaid. This was irrespective of what he had lent to statesman and others while in the discharge of public trusts. His descendants have frequently petitioned for remuneration, and committees of congress have several times favorably reported upon their claims.
Edited Appleton's American Biography Copyright© 2000 by Virtualology TM
The Jews of Philadelphia: their history from the earliest settlements
By Henry Samuel Morais
By Henry Samuel Morais
"As rich as a Jew," that exaggerated saying so often heard, might well have been substituted, in the American Revolutionary period, as well as in our own day, by the remark: "As generous as a Jew." Apt illustration is found in the careers of men who, though of foreign birth, and members of a religious minority, proved more than loyal in times of need. Aaron Levy, Haym Solomon, and others loaned extraordinarily large sums towards the cause of the American colonists in their struggle for independence. But it is Haym Solomon who deserves a golden page in the history of the United States; for his means and his services were always at the disposal of the Government. He aided more than a few statesmen while in distress; he gave plenteously to all; he exhibited a charity and a philanthropy worthy of all praise.
Haym Solomon's name is on the first list of members of the Congregation Mickv6h Israel, and in 1783 he served as a trustee of that religious organization. That he subscribed liberal sums to the worship, goes without saying. But this was a mere fraction of the total of his bounty. Haym Solomon was not a native of America, having been born in Lissa, on the Prussian side of Poland, in 1740, and descended from Portuguese stock. He came to this country while young, and his patriotism in supporting the colonists found him a prisoner in New York in 1775, while that city was in possession of the British. The sufferings he experienced there, told on him subsequently, notwithstanding that he succeeded in escaping and making his way to Philadelphia. He had acquired wealth as a banker, and this he freely loaned to Robert Morris, as the financier of the Revolution. The cause was assisted by him to the extent of over $350,000. All the war subsidies obtained here from France and Holland he negotiated, and sold them to American merchants at a credit of two or three months, receiving for his commission but one fourth of one per cent. At a certain time he was banker for the French Government. When Continental money was withdrawn, thereby causing suffering among the poor of this city, Mr. Solomon distributed $2,000 in specie to relieve distress.
Shameful to say, that, notwithstanding all claims, neither Haym Solomon, who died in January, 1785, nor his heirs, have to this day, been reimbursed by a Government that ought long since to have acknowledged its debt to him who proved one of its main supports in the trying days of the Revolution. A long array of recipients of Mr. Solomon's bounty might here be presented. James Madison, afterwards the fourth president of the United States, writes to Edmund Randolph: "I have for some time past been a pensioner on the favor of Haym Solomon.'' And again: ''The kindness of our little friend in Front Street, near the coffee house (Haym Solomon) is a fund that will preserve me from extremities; but I never resort to it without great mortification, as he obstinately rejects all recompense. To a necessitous delegate he gratuitously spares a supply 'out of his private stock. " to Thomas Jefferson, Arthur Lee, General St . Clair, General Mifflin, Edmund Randolph, Robert Morris, and others, at home and abroad, were assisted by the same generous hand. In fact, Haym Solomon's record was such in which he and his co-religionists as well, have cause for just pride.
Haym Salomon (ca. 1740 - 1785)
by Bob Blythe
Salomon (sometimes written as Solomon and Solomons in period documents) was a Polish-born Jewish immigrant to America who played an important role in financing the Revolution. When the war began, Salomon was operating as a financial broker in New York City. He seems to have been drawn early to the Patriot side and was arrested by the British as a spy in 1776. He was pardoned and used by the British as an interpreter with their German troops. Salomon, however, continued to help prisoners of the British escape and encouraged German soldiers to desert. Arrested again in 1778, he was sentenced to death, but managed to escape to the rebel capital of Philadelphia, where he resumed his career as a broker and dealer in securities. He soon became broker to the French consul and paymaster to French troops in America.
Salomon arrived in Philadelphia as the Continental Congress was struggling to raise money to support the war. Congress had no powers of direct taxation and had to rely on requests for money directed to the states, which were mostly refused. The government had no choice but to borrow money and was ultimately bailed out only by loans from the French and Dutch governments. Government finances were in a chaotic state in 1781 when Congress appointed former Congressman Robert Morris superintendent of finances. Morris established the Bank of North America and proceeded to finance the Yorktown campaign of Washington and Rochambeau. Morris relied on public-spirited financiers like Salomon to subscribe to the bank, find purchasers for government bills of exchange, and lend their own money to the government.
From 1781 on, Salomon brokered bills of exchange for the American government and extended interest-free personal loans to members of Congress, including James Madison. Salomon married Rachel Franks in 1777 and had four children with her. He was an influential member of Philadelphia’s Mikveh Israel congregation, founded in 1740. He helped lead the fight to overturn restrictive Pennsylvania laws barring non-Christians from holding public office. Like many elite citizens of Philadelphia, he owned at least one slave, a man named Joe, who ran away in 1780. Possibly as a result of his purchases of government debt, Salomon died penniless in 1785. His descendants in the nineteenth century attempted to obtain compensation from Congress, but were unsuccessful. The extent of Salomon’s claim on the government cannot be determined, because the documentation disappeared long ago.
In 1941, the George Washington-Robert Morris-Haym Salomon Memorial was erected along Wacker Drive in downtown Chicago. The bronze and stone memorial was conceived by sculptor Lorado Taft and finished by his student, Leonard Crunelle. Although Salomon’s role in financing the Revolution has at times been exaggerated, his willingness to take financial risks for the Patriot cause helped establish the new nation.
To learn more:
Laurens R. Schwartz, Jews and the American Revolution: Haym Salomon and Others (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., 1987).
Haym Solomon (or Salomon) (1740–1785) was a Polish Jew who immigrated to New York during the period of the American Revolution, and who became a prime financier of the American side during the American Revolutionary War against Great Britain. He was born in Leszno (Lissa), Poland, the son of a rabbi, and after leaving Poland, probably in 1772 at the time of Polish partition, immigrated to New York City circa 1775. In New York, he sympathized with the Revolutionary movement, and joined the Sons of Liberty.
During the war, Solomon was twice arrested by the British; in 1776 he was arrested as a spy and served as a German interpreter for the British military's Hessian mercenaries. In 1778 Solomon was sentenced to death, but escaped to Philadelphia, where he acted as a broker for the Office of Finance. Solomon worked extensively with Robert Morris, the Superintendent for Finance for the Thirteen Colonies, and is mentioned nearly seventy-five times in Morris' personal correspondence relating to the financing of the Revolution. Solomon also provided financial services to Continental Congressional delegates James Madison and James Wilson, and during the War became the broker to the French consul, the treasurer of the French Army that aided the Continental Army, and the fiscal agent of the French minister to the United States.
He was also active in Philadelphia's Jewish community and was a member of Congregation Mikveh Israel. He died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at the age of 45.
Early war yearsWhile in New York, he married Rachael Franks, the daughter of Moses Franks, of a prominent colonial period Jewish family that included loyalist and revolutionary sympathizers. In 1776 he was captured by the British, but he used his knowledge of German to convince his Hessian jailer to let him out. It was during this period of incarceration that he contracted tuberculosis.
After this Solomon left New York, joining with the forces of the Continental Army who were evacuating New York. He traveled south with George Washington's Army and eventually settled in Philadelphia.
Commercial accomplishmentsSolomon was an astute merchant and auctioneer who succeeded in accumulating a fortune, which he subsequently devoted to the use of the American government during the American Revolution. For example, he personally supported various members of the Continental Congress during their stay in Philadelphia, including James Madison. Acting as the patriot he was, he never asked for repayment. Solomon also negotiated the sale of a majority of the war aid from France and Holland, selling bills of exchange to American merchants.
He sold bills of exchange for the French, and those funds went to pay the French military during their stay in Philadelphia. That is why some mistakenly believe he was the paymaster-general of the French forces in the early years of the United States.
Often working out of the "London Coffee House" in Philadelphia, he acted as a broker for the Office of Finance. Solomon sold about $600,000 in Bills of Exchange to his clients, netting about 2.5% per sale. During this period he had to turn to his client in the Office of Finance, Robert Morris, when one sale of over $50,000 nearly sent him to prison. Morris used his position and influence to sue the defrauder and saved Solomon from default and disaster.
Activity in Jewish communitySolomon was involved in Jewish community affairs, being a member of Congregation Mikveh Israel in Philadelphia, and in 1782, made the largest individual contribution towards the construction of its main building. In 1783, Solomon and other prominent Jews appealed to the Pennsylvania Council of Censors urging them to remove the religious test oath required for office-holding under the State Constitution. In 1784, he answered anti-Semitic slander in the press by stating: "I am a Jew; it is my own nation; I do not despair that we shall obtain every other privilege that we aspire to enjoy along with our fellow-citizens."
Death and debts
His obituary in the Independent Gazetteer read, "Thursday, last, expired, after a lingering illness, Mr. Haym Solomon, an eminent broker of this city, was a native of Poland, and of the Hebrew nation. He was remarkable for his skill and integrity in his profession, and for his generous and humane deportment. His remains were yesterday deposited in the burial ground of the synagogue of this city."
The gravesite of Haym Solomon is at Mikveh Israel Cemetery, located on the 800-block of Spruce Street, in Philadelphia. It is unmarked, but he has two plaque memorials there. The east wall has a marble tablet that was installed by his great-grandson, William Solomon, and a granite memorial is set inside the gate of the cemetery. In 1980, the Haym Salomon Lodge #663 of the fraternal organization B'rith Sholom sponsored a memorial in Mikvah Israel Cemetery on the north side of Spruce st. between 8th and 9th Sts. in Philadelphia. A large, engraved memorial marker of Barre Granite just inside the cemetery gates was placed, inscribed, "An American Patriot".
When Solomon died, it was discovered he had been speculating in various currencies and debt instruments. His family sold them at market rates, which had greatly depreciated because of the weakened state of the American economy in the 1780s. Subsequent generations misunderstood his truly patriotic actions and appealed to Congress for more money, but were turned down twice. A myth grew up that he had lent the young United States government about $600,000, and at his death about $400,000 of this amount had not been repaid. This sum was added to what he really had lent to statesmen and others while performing public duties and trusts. Jacob Rader Marcus wrote in Early American Jewry that the sum owed to Solomon was $800,000. That amount in 1785 is equivalent in purchasing power to about $39,264,947,368.42 (using relative share of GDP which indicates purchasing power) in 2005 US dollars.
Myths and historical legends
Solomon spoke eight languages. Supposedly, when he was in France, he passed himself off as a French diplomat. Unfortunately, it does not conform to the known facts. It is true his co-religionist, David Franks, did help Adams negotiate loans from Holland. However, there is nothing in the record to show that Solomon himself went to Europe for this purpose.
Solomon is sometimes alleged to have written the first draft of the United States Constitution but the Philadelphia Convention occurred after his death. Others have claimed that he designed The Great Seal of the United States and that he included the Star of David, a Jewish symbol, above the eagle's head. There is no documentary evidence to support this claim.
It is often said that Solomon lent hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Revolutionary government, which never repaid him. In fact, the money merely passed through his bank accounts.
Honors, testimonials and memorials
- "Financial Hero—Businessman and broker Haym Solomon was responsible for raising most of the money needed to finance the American Revolution and later to save the new nation from collapse."
n 1939, Warner Brothers released Sons of Liberty, a short film starring Claude Rains as Solomon. Hollywood film producer John C. W. Shoop, under direction of MorningStar Pictures, is currently in production of a story of the life and times of Haym Salomon called On The Money.
In World War II the United States liberty ship SS Haym Solomon was named in his honor.
- ^ Milgram, Shirley. ""Mikveh Israel Cemetery."". USHistory.org. Retrieved on 2008-06-26.
- ^ "[ttp://www.nps.gov/revwar/about_the_revolution/haym_salomom.html Haym Solomon]". National Park Service, US Department of the Interior. Retrieved on 2008-06-26.
- ^ Wiernik, Peter. History of the Jews in America. New York: The Jewish Press Publishing Company, 1912. p. 96.
- ^ Wiernik, Peter. History of the Jews in America. New York: The Jewish Press Publishing Company, 1912. p. 95.
- ^ Wiernik, Peter. History of the Jews in America. New York: The Jewish Press Publishing Company, 1912. p. 95.
- ^ Peters, p. 12
- ^ On June 17, 1980 the Philadelphia public was advised of the fact in the Philadelphia Morning Inquirer, complete with a background story and photograph of the event.
- ^ [Used 1790 - 2005 as the calculator only goes to 1790...]
- ^ Can History be Open Source? Wikipedia and the Future of the Past, by Roy Ronsezweig, in The Journal of American History Volume 93, Number 1 (June, 2006): 117-46. The sentence is between note 30 and 31
- Amler, Jane Frances. Haym Solomon: Patriot Banker of the American Revolution. ISBN 0-8239-6629-1
- Hart, Charles Spencer. General Washington's Son of Israel and Other Forgotten Heroes of History. ISBN 0-8369-1296-9.
- Peters, Madison C. Haym Solomon. The Financier of the Revolution. New York: The Trow Press, 1911.
- Russell, Charles Edward. Haym Solomon and the Revolution. ISBN 0-7812-5827-8.
- Schwartz, Laurens R. Jews and the American Revolution: Haym Solomon and Others (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., 1987).
- Wiernik, Peter. History of the Jews in America. New York: The Jewish Press Publishing Company, 1912.