Haym Salomon was born in 1740 to a family of Portuguese Jews. His parents had been driven out of the Iberian peninsula by anti-Semitic laws enacted by the Spanish monarchy, and settled in Lissa (now Leszno), a part of
broker Haym Salomon (1740-1785) played a vital role in ensuring that the American colonies' fight to win independence from the British crown continued. During the 1770s, he brokered a number of large financial transactions that kept American soldiers clothed, fed, and armed. It is thought that this Jewish emigrant contributed much of his own assets to the war for independence because he died deeply in debt. Philadelphia
It was probably during the 1760s that Salomon traveled in
Acts of SeditionDuring this time Salomon continued his political activism. He was active in a secret group, the Sons of Liberty, which had been established by men with business interests who were opposed to British rule. The Crown's colonial system ensured that a large part of the profits generated in the
After Salomon was released from custody, he married Rachel Franks, the daughter of a prominent merchant, in January 1777. He continued to work underground to sway Hessian allegiance, and was jailed a second time in August 1778 as one of several suspects thought to be planning a fire that would destroy the British royal fleet in New York harbor. The strategy also included a series of arson fires in British warehouses. He was sent to the Provost, an infamous prison, and a death sentence loomed. However, Salomon had hidden several gold guineas on himself, which were used to bribe a jailer and escape to freedom.
Success inSalomon left British-occupied
The revolutionary cause, in contrast, was in dire financial straits. The colonies were battling against an extremely wealthy enemy, the
A Key FigureSalomon became an associate of prominent Philadelphian Robert Morris, a member of Congress with close ties to Benjamin Franklin. Morris brokered many financial transactions that helped the revolutionary cause gather steam early on. By the winter of 1780-81 the colonial government was broke and Morris was appointed superintendent of finance. Salomon entered into more than seventy-five financial transactions with Morris between 1781 and 1784. He was almost the only broker for the sale of bills of exchange - bonds sold to provide funds for the war effort and salaries of top government officeholders. Salomon may have backed many of these with his own assets. Moreover, he was the principal broker for subsidies from
Records show that Salomon advanced in specie over $211,000 to Morris when the latter was superintendent of finance, and entered into other transactions with the government to the tune of over $353,000. There were also several promissory notes totaling $92,000. In all, the sum that Salomon advanced to help the war cause was over $658,000, an amount which was later recognized by Congress as valid. Some of these transactions were in specie or on revolutionary paper, and as such declined considerably in value after the war. The loans that Salomon advanced to men such as future presidents James Madison and James Monroe were assumed to have been settled between the parties.
Salomon maintained his
Services Rendered, then ForgottenWhen Salomon died at the age of 45, he was a bankrupt man with a wife, three children under the age of seven, and a fourth on the way. His estate was valued at $44,000, but had liabilities of $45,000. Not long after his death, his chief clerk, who could have been crucial to straightening out financial matters regarding the family debt, committed suicide. Attempts were made by his heirs over the next few years to obtain some retribution, but a series of suspect occurrences thwarted these challenges. It was alleged by the government, for instance, that papers concerning the Salomon estate claims were destroyed when government buildings in the
Salomon's fourth child, Haym Jr., met with President John Tyler in the early 1840s and reportedly left a sheaf of documents with him for his perusal. The box of papers later disappeared. The younger Salomon then petitioned the Senate Committee on Revolutionary Claims until 1864, when he was in his late seventies. He even offered to settle the claim at a sum of just $100,000. This was quite generous considering that, with interest, the actual amount owed would have spiraled to a debt of grand proportions. At this the Committee once more approved the claim's legitimacy and submitted it to Congress, which again failed to approve the expenditure.
A Shameful LegacyAt some point after the 1860s, a cache of Salomon papers remaining in Congressional archives was discovered to be missing. Many of them concerned financial dealings and bore the signatures of
Salomon, who is buried in the
FurtherFast, Howard, Haym Salomon: Son of Liberty, Julian Messner, Inc., 1941.
Hart, Charles Spencer, General Washington's Son of
Russell, Charles Edward, Haym Salomon and the Revolution, Cosmopolitan Book Corp., 1930.
Schwartz, Laurens B., Jews and the American Revolution: Haym Salomon and Others, McFarland and Co., 1987.