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Robert Morris: Financier of the American Revolution

Overview

In this biography, the acclaimed author of Sons of Providence, winner of the 2007 George Wash- ington Book Prize, recovers an immensely important part of the founding drama of the country in the story of Robert Morris, the man who financed Washington’s armies and the American Revolution.

Morris started life in the colonies as an apprentice in a counting house. By the time of the Revolution he was a rich man, a commercial and social leader in Philadelphia. He organized a ...

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Robert Morris: Financier of the American Revolution

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Overview

In this biography, the acclaimed author of Sons of Providence, winner of the 2007 George Wash- ington Book Prize, recovers an immensely important part of the founding drama of the country in the story of Robert Morris, the man who financed Washington’s armies and the American Revolution.

Morris started life in the colonies as an apprentice in a counting house. By the time of the Revolution he was a rich man, a commercial and social leader in Philadelphia. He organized a clandestine trading network to arm the American rebels, joined the Second Continental Congress, and financed George Washington’s two crucial victories—Valley Forge and the culminating battle at Yorktown that defeated Cornwallis and ended the war.

The leader of a faction that included Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and Washington, Morris ran the executive branches of the revolutionary government for years. He was a man of prodigious energy and adroit management skills and was the most successful businessman on the continent. He laid the foundation for public credit and free capital markets that helped make America a global economic leader. But he incurred powerful enemies who considered his wealth and influence a danger to public "virtue" in a democratic society.

After public service, he gambled on land speculations that went bad, and landed in debtors prison, where George Washington, his loyal friend, visited him.

This once wealthy and powerful man ended his life in modest circumstances, but Rappleye restores his place as a patriot and an immensely important founding father.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“… an illuminating account of the Revolution’s improvised and even dodgy finances.” –The New Yorker

“This book, the first full-length modern biography of Morris, restores him to his rightful place among the Founders’ pantheon and tells the story of a man now known to most Americans only from basketball scores.” –Pittsburgh Times Review

“The first full-length modern biography of an extraordinary, forgotten founder of the American republic…the best ever about its subject…. Rappleye (Sons of Providence) brings Morris and his world brightly alive. Nothing of the financier's full life…escapes Rappleye, and his judgments are balanced and astute.” —Publishers Weekly

“The world needs to know more about Morris, and this highly readable book will surely foster more research and writing.” —Concord Monitor (New Hampshire)

Publishers Weekly
The first full-length modern biography of an extraordinary, forgotten founder of the American republic, Rappleye's book, the best ever about its subject, is an effective work of rehabilitation. Morris (1734–1806)--a gifted, enterprising, and skilled merchant, banker, and political figure in Philadelphia--was key to the financing of the American Revolution and American government into the 1790s. But because he had many political and business enemies, was a rich Federalist elitist, and ended in debtors' prison for overspeculation in land, he has always remained in the shadows. So has the fact that while deeply committed to the American cause, like many others of his time, he mixed public service with an eye on gain. Rappleye (Sons of Providence) brings Morris and his world brightly alive. Nothing of the financier's full life (his privateering for the war effort; his pioneering trade with China; the "overconfidence" that brought his downfall) escapes Rappleye, and his judgments are balanced and astute. Unfortunately, the work is overstuffed. But perhaps that's necessary to gain Morris the standing he so much deserves among the great figures of the founding era. (Nov.)
Library Journal
Robert Morris (1734–1806) is largely forgotten in the pantheon of Founding Fathers. Rappleye (Sons of Providence: The Brown Brothers, the Slave Trade, and the American Revolution) restores him to his proper stature as significant and worthy of study. As one of Colonial America's most successful businessmen, Morris, a Liverpool native who came to America in his youth, was instrumental in adequately financing the American Revolution. Appointed superintendent of finance (1781–84), he used his skills and connections both to supply George Washington's armies and to keep creditors at bay. Tragically, he stretched his own credit to do so and began to invest in Western lands that landed him in debtor's prison. While the last major book on Morris, Clarence L. Ver Steeg's Robert Morris: Revolutionary Financier (1954), focused on Morris's years as superintendent of finance, Rappleye covers Morris's entire life. Yet he could have added more details on his subject's private life as well as his time as a Pennsylvania senator. Rappleye uses a wealth of primary material (endnotes to come, not seen) and provides a comprehensive bibliography and survey of the historical literature. VERDICT Rappleye has written a definitive biography of Morris that neither scholars nor history buffs should ignore.—Bryan Craig, Nellsyford, VA
Kirkus Reviews

Passionate biography of a Founding Father whose legacy exists in the shadow of George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, but who played an equally vital role in the creation of the United States.

Born in England, Robert Morris (1734–1806) moved to the American continent at a young age and used a small inheritanceto become a wealthy merchant. Although not a revolutionary by disposition, the proud Philadelphian believed that the British crown had overstepped its power, and he became active in both the formation ofindividual state governments and pushed for the controversial notion of a federal entity that could raise its own money. As the Revolutionary War dragged on, George Washington and other generals could not adequately clothe, feed or pay their troops, who threatened mutiny. Using his contacts and knowledge developed as an import-export businessman, Morris dealt with emissaries from France and other foreign nations, as well asleaders in each of the original states, raising millions of dollars and procuring shipments of badly needed gunpowder as if by magic. Investigative journalist Rappleye (Sons of Providence: The Brown Brothers, the Slave Trade, and the American Revolution, 2006, etc.) demonstrates that behind the seeming magic, Morris labored mightily, sometimes at great cost to hisbeloved wife and their brood of children, as well as the near loss of his psychologicalequilibrium. In a nascent republic beset by political, geographical and personal rivalries, Morris became theobject of suspicion by some, who accused him of enriching himself at the expense of the new nation. He worked hard for years to clear his name of those allegations and succeeded for the most part. However, his unwise land speculation after the war led to the loss of his fortune andtime in jail before his death. In fluid prose, Rappleye ably resurrects an underrated contributor to the early American republic.

Provides thorough coverage of adeserving subject.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416570929
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 11/1/2011
  • Pages: 640
  • Sales rank: 526,665
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.16 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Charles Rappleye is an award-winning investigative journalist and editor. He has written extensively on media, law enforcement, and organized crime. He lives in Los Angeles.

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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2012

    Interesting read

    Robert Morris was a controversial figure to many. This book tells his side of the story and gives good background into the struggles he faced and the methods he employed. Anyone interested in the financial part of the American Revolution should read.

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    Posted April 28, 2011

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