War heroes are not always soldiers in arms. Often they are the men and women who work behind the scenes. Such was the role of Haym Salomon, an unsung hero of the American Revolution.
Born in 1740 in Poland, Salomon immigrated to New York in the early 1770s, where he established himself as a financial broker for merchants engaged in overseas trade and became a member of the Sons of Liberty (a secret organization of American patriots).
Salomon was quite successful in business and put his business acumen to work for the colonials. He was arrested as a spy in 1776, but pardoned and put to work by the British as a translator for their Hessian mercenaries (whom he covertly encouraged to desert). When he was arrested again in 1778, he received a death sentence but managed to escape. Salomon fled to Philadelphia, penniless.
Re-establishing his brokerage business, Salomon resumed his work for the revolution. When George Washington found himself on the verge of victory but with an empty war chest, Haym Salomon managed to raise the $20,000 needed. Washington was thus able to complete the Yorktown campaign–and win independence for the United States. Salomon also negotiated with France and Holland for war aid and helped members of the Continental Congress support themselves in Philadelphia. His financial genius was also put in service to the new federal government, which lacked financial stability.
Unfortunately, Salomon also involved himself in considerable financial speculation. When he died in 1785, his unexpected debts left his family penniless.
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