Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Haym Solomon, was a prime financier of the American side during Revolution

Haym Solomon Memorial


Haym Solomon

Haym Solomon (or Salomon) (1740–1785) was a prime financier of the American side during the American Revolutionary War against Great Britain. A Jew, he was born in Leszno (Lissa), Poland, the son of a rabbi. He died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


Life and accomplishments

Solomon came to New York from Poland in 1772 and joined the Sons of Liberty. 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 he left New York and joined up with the American forces who were evacuating New York at the time. Haym Salomon was a merchant. He traveled south with Washington's Army and eventually settled in Philadelphia. While in Philadelphia he married Rachael Franks, the daughter of loyalist merchant and slave trader David Franks, of Philadelphia. They kept one slave, a young woman who helped Mrs. Solomon in their home.
Salomon 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.
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 Bader 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.[1]
It is said that during the American Revolution, Solomon went to France and raised an additional £3.5 million from the Sassoon and Rothschild banking houses and families. However, David Sassoon had not been born yet, and would later start up his counting house in Bombay, India, not France. Likewise, the Rothschild family had not set up a bank in France yet either. At the time of the Revolutionary war, the Rothschild's partriach, Mayer Amschel Rothschild, founder of the banking dynasty, was still in Hesse-Kassel, loyally serving its prince, Wilhelm IX, who aided the British against the Americans by supplying England with his Hessian mercenaries.
Solomon spoke eight languages.[citation needed] 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.
After a solid career in Philadelphia, he saw opportunity in a different state. Former client Robert Morris tried to help him establish himself in New York. He died shortly after he had decided to move back to city and become an auctioneer there.

Historical legends

  • Solomon supposedly wrote the first draft of the United States Constitution, but there is nothing to substantiate this claim. Since the Constitutional Convention occurred after his death this would have been a very difficult thing to accomplish.[citation needed]
  • Some claim that he designed The Great Seal of the United States, which is why it has what some believe resembles a Star of David above the eagle's head design. While there is reason to think that he did believe the United States would become a world power, there is no documentary evidence to support this claim. [2]
  • At war's end, many in the Continental Congress were desperately poor, and Solomon too died completely bankrupt.{Fact|date=February 2007}}
  • It is often said that Solomon loaned hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Revolutionary government, which never repaid him. In fact, the money merely passed through his bank accounts.[2]

Jewish pride

Solomon 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."

Early death

The following obituary was printed in the Independent Gazetteer:
"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.

Honors, testimonials and memorials

In 1893, a bill was presented before the 52nd United States Congress ordering a gold medal struck in recognition of Solomon's contributions to the United States. In 1941, the writer Howard Fast wrote a book Haym Salomon, Son of Liberty. In 1941, the George Washington-Robert Morris-Haym Solomon Memorial was erected along Wacker Drive in downtown Chicago. In 1975 the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp honoring Haym Saloman for his contributions to the cause of the American Revolution. This stamp, like others in the "Contributors to the Cause" series, was printed on the front and the back. On the glue side of the stamp, the following words were printed in pale, green ink:
"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."
The Congressional Record of March 25, 1975 reads, "When Morris was appointed Superintendent of Finance, he turned to Solomon for help in raising the money needed to carry on the war and later to save the emerging nation from financial collapse. Solomon 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 Solomon,' Morris' diary for the years 1781–84 records some 75 transactions between the two men."
In 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.


  1. ^ [1] [Used 1790 - 2005 as the calculator only goes to 1790...]
  2. ^ 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 (free available HTML version of the article doesn't report original article page numbers).


  • Laurens R. Schwartz, Jews and the American Revolution: Haym Solomon and Others (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., 1987).
  • Hart, Charles Spencer. General Washington's Son of Israel and Other Forgotten Heroes of History. ISBN 0-8369-1296-9.
  • Russell, Charles Edward. Haym Solomon and the Revolution. ISBN 0-7812-5827-8.
  • Amler, Jane Frances. Haym Solomon: Patriot Banker of the American Revolution. ISBN 0-8239-6629-1

External links

No comments:

Post a Comment