In downtown Philadelphia, you can find the bronze statue of three patriots standing side by side; George Washington, Robert Morris, and Haym Salomon. Washington is well known in the history of our nation. Robert Morris is a signer of the Declaration of Independence. But, who is the third person standing to the left of Washington? Why are we honoring Haym Salomon?
Salomon was a Polish Jew who came to America seeking freedom and fleeing the rise of antisemitism in Europe. He was a banker and a broker. Through shrewd investments and industry, Salomon soon became one of the wealthiest men in America.
When the Revolutionary War broke out, the Signers fled, contributing however they could to support of the new American nation. Under the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly, Robert Morris was assigned as a member of the Committee of Safety to supervise defenses and finance the war. The Continental Congress had no real power at the time. Financing a war was a major challenge. Morris was well aware of this fact. Morris enlisted Haym Salomon for help.
The Continental Congress did not have the ability to collect taxes. Solomon relied on personal contacts for fundraising. He also opened up his wallet, and he gave. And he gave.
Still, the initial stages of the Revolutionary War were not going well for the newly formed nation. The Americans were losing on all fronts. Although Washington was an inspirational leader, admired by his troops, the army was poorly equipped, ill-fed, and discouraged. The outlook was bleak. It was at this critical moment that George Washington went to pray at Valley Forge. Washington asked for divine intervention, a miracle.
The miracle did come. General Washington sent for Haym Salomon. By that time, Salomon had given just about everything he had. Still, he accepted the call. He again sought to raise funds for the war effort.
“Would you lend money to the war effort?” Salomon asked. The war was going poorly. The young nation had no collateral to give. Nothing of value to offer. Salomon was not able to secure any more loans.
Not wanting to let Washington down, Salomon asked, “Would you lend money to me, then?” Salomon raised $650,00 for Washington; over $10 Billion in today’s money.
With the influx of cash, gun powder was purchased. Shoes for the soldiers were provided. And America won the Revolutionary War.
However, at the end of the war, Salomon had to repay the loans that he had secured. He spent time in prison for late payments, and he died penniless.
Haym Salomon should forever be remembered for his public virtue and his love for freedom.
It has been two and half-centuries since the Declaration of Independence was written. Many claim that America is headed for more difficult times. Even so, we can draw strength from the Founding Fathers of our Nation. We may not be asked to sacrifice as much as they did, but we can learn from, and emulate, their examples.
Art da Rosa, PE, MPA
George Washington praying (Photo Credit: George Washington FB Page)