Robert Morris - Financier of the American Revolution

Robert Morris: Financier of the American RevolutionRobert Morris, Jr. -  America's Founding Capitalist Once Lived in Oxford, Maryland

"During the Revolution, Morris used his reputation and business connections to effectively bankroll American forces. He was active in supplying Washington's army with gunpowder, which he smuggled in under the noses of British authorities in Europe and the Caribbean. Rappleye argues that the Revolution couldn't have been won without Morris."

"The Robert Morris Inn located in Oxford, Maryland is a tribute to the architectural beauty of the 18th century. It was built prior to 1710 by ships' carpenters with wooden pegged paneling, ships nails and hand hewn beams. In 1730 an English trading company bought the house as a residence for Robert Morris who represented the firm's shipping business interests in Oxford. 

Robert Morris moved from England to Oxford in 1738 and achieved a considerable reputation for himself and his firm. His son, Robert Jr., joined him in 1747 at the age of 13 and lived in Oxford before being apprenticed to a mercantile firm in Philadelphia. Robert Morris, Sr., died in 1750 as the result of an ironic accident; wadding from a ship's gun being fired in his honor struck his arm and proved fatal. 

In 1750, Morris had been aboard the Liverpool Merchant, which had just arrived, welcoming the captain.  He climbed into a small boat to go ashore.  The captain readied the ship's guns to fire a salute, as was custom, when a fly lit on his nose.  His swat at the fly was misinterpreted by the crew, who fired the cannon prematurely, when Morris' boat was only 20 yards away.  Wadding struck Morris' right arm, breaking it and inflicting a wound that became infected.  Morris died six days later, only 39 years old and at the height of his career.  He is buried at White Marsh Church. 

At the outbreak of the American Revolution, Robert Morris, Jr., was made partner in the Philadelphia firm he had joined as a boy. When few would risk money on a new concept of the United States, he used his entire savings to help finance the Continental Army and became a close friend of George Washington, who depended on him to direct the financing of the war. 

Robert Morris, Jr. is known primarily by his title “The Financier of the American Revolution,” a reference both to his position as a Superintendent of Finance of the United States from 1781-1784 and to his general role in raising money and supplies for Continental government. He was one of the only two Founding Fathers to sign all three fundamental testaments of the American Revolution: The Declaration of Independence, The Articles of Confederation, The United States Constitution. In the line of succession that include Alexander Hamilton and Albert Gallatin, Morris may be considered the first of the three great treasury secretaries who laid the financial foundations of the United States."

Editorial Reviews: Robert Morris: Financier of the American Revolution

From Booklist

"Important in the American Revolution but obscure in popular history, Robert Morris is here introduced to a general readership and also defended from aspersions from preceding academic biographers. The author’s first intent is well met in a fluid narrative of Morris’ mercantile acumen, which made him the choice of the Continental Congress to find the money for the War of Independence. When the American government morphed into the Articles of Confederation in 1781, Morris filled the same financial shoes and devised a debt-service plan that prefigured Hamilton’s under the succeeding Constitution. As he shows how well connected the genial Morris was, Rappleye develops Morris’ participation in factional politics, which naturally earned him enemies whose accusations supplied source material for criticisms of Morris by twentieth-century historians. Accused of embezzlement, Morris survived all investigations into his financial management. Shoehorned as a capitalist into economic interpretations of the American Revolution, Morris, this author counters, was essentially a pragmatist. Within a well-structured, readable account of Morris’ eventful life, Rappleye ably brings forth the financial substrate of the American Revolution." --Gilbert Taylor

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