Financier of American Revolution
If it wasn’t for Haym Solomon, we would all be talking with British accents, so which war did he help? The American revolutionary war.
Haym Solomon came to this country as an immigrant from Poland. America was the first country in the modern era to give Jews equality. Much better than Poland. At the outbreak of the Revolutionary War there were only about 1,000 to 2,500 Jews in America. That’s about 1/10th of 1% of the population. They were concentrated in a handful of cities, and were educated and influential. When the British arrived they arrested Haym as a spy. Very soon after, the British recognized that Haym’s ability to speak 6 languages would be useful to them, so they freed him and used him as a translator instead. Around this time there were German-speaking Hessian soldiers working with the British. Haym spoke to these soldiers in secret and convinced many to leave the British Army and, with the promise of free land, fight for the Revolution. Hmm – maybe the original British theory that he was a spy wasn’t so far wrong after all. He was forced to flee and went to Philadelphia where he became quite wealthy. Philadelphia, as you all remember, was essentially the capitol of the country and Congress met there. Yet these were early days in a new country and the government didn’t always pay the Congressmen. Haym Solomon often paid them. He continued in his generous role by helping to finance the war. But we aren’t talking $50 and a fancy hat; we are looking at over $600,000.
Legend has it that George Washington asked Haym Solomon on Yom Kippur to help finance his raggedly clothed army. A religious Jew, he realized that serving his country was part of his religion, and he stopped the service until he collected enough pledges of support from the congregants, and THEN carried on with the service.
“Give till it hurts” – Haym Solomon gave so much that when he died at 45, he was broke.
Even back in 1780, the government couldn’t repay people and today the money he provided is worth today approximately; hold on to your chair now, over $39 billion dollars. His descendants tried to recover it in recent years – but were unsuccessful. Our government did make a stamp in his honor though. And there is a monument in Chicago, with him standing next to George Washington. (Others would argue it is a statue of George Washington, with some other dude next to him… but we know the real story).
By the way – one piece of Jewish-Revolutionary trivia I learnt during my research is that the Liberty Bell is inscribed with this quote: “"Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof". It is significant that a verse from the Torah appears on this American icon since Jews played an important role in the Revolutionary War. What do we learn from Haym Solomon ? That you can help win a war without picking up a sword or gun. And that you can use your brains, intellect and other resources to achieve great things.