I am going to conclude this short series with a note on someone I consider to be one of the nation’s unrecognized Founding Fathers for without the sacrifices of Mr. Salomon, the Revolutionary War would have likely ended in New Jersey in 1776 as the Continental Congress ran out of funds to support the army.
Haym Salomon immigrated to Philadelphia in 1775 at thirty-five and immediately embraced the revolutionary cause selling goods to the American troops stationed on New York’s northern borders. He was so well-known as an ardent Whig that, when the British occupied New York City in 1776, they immediately arrested him and threw him into one of their infamous prison barges. He might have perished there had he not been released by Hessian whose German-Jewish quartermasters induced General von Heister to free and employ him. Salomon agreed to work for them, but continued to operate underground as an American agent inducing Hessian officers to resign and helping American prisoners to escape. Unfortunately, the eventually discovered him and he was forced to flee to to Philadelphia, leaving behind a wife and an infant child.
In Philadelphia, Salomon exploited linguistic skills and regained a degree of affluence that enabled him to again support the American cause. He became a financial agent for the consul general of France and the treasurer of the French army. By 1781, he was probably the best known bill broker in the country, and it was in that capacity that Robert Morris, the Superintendent of Finance, employed him to sell the bills of friendly governments. After nearly eight years of conflict the Continental Congress needed large sums of money to equip their troops. As the army prepared to march to Yorktown, Salomon’s job was to secure loans many of which were made from his own pockets.
“I have for some time past been a pensioner on the favor of Haym Salomon, a Jew broker, The kindness of our little friend in Front Street, near the coffee-house, is a fund which will preserve me from extremities, but I never resort to it without great mortification, as he obstinately rejects all recompense.”Letter from James Madison to Edmund Randolph in 1782
It is obvious why a man like Salomon who had risked his life and lost his fortune (twice) would feel hurt that his state saw fit to treat him as a second-class citizen. As a member of the board of the new synagogue, Mikveh Israel, he joined with them and the congregation’s cantor in 1783 in a vigorous protest to Pennsylvania’s authoritative Council of Censors, asking them to remove the offensive test oath. The protesters accomplished nothing. Two years later Salomon died and lies today in an unmarked grave in the Spruce Street Cemetery. Five years after this “Jew broker” was laid to rest, Pennsylvania did remove the discriminatory clause.
On Wacker Drive in present-day Chicago there is a monument commemorating the services of Salomon to the beloved land of his adoption. General Washington stands tall and erect on a pedestal of black marble flanked on his right by Robert Morris, on his left by Haym Salomon. The legend underneath runs:
The government of the United States which gives to bigotry no sanction,
to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its
protection should demean themselves as good citizens. . . .