Sunday, December 5, 2010

The mercantile world of Samuel Meeker comes alive in a new biography of Robert Morris; & his portrait by Gilbert Stuart

Robert Morris 1734-1806

There is a new biography out on the American rebel/financier; Robert Morris: Financier of the American Revolution by Charles Rappleye. The following excerpts are from “This Rebel Came Armed with a Balance Sheet”, article from the Wall St Journal Nov 27-28 2010 by John Steele Gordon.

When most people think about the American Revolution, they think about the remarkable ideals that lay behind it and that guide the country still, or they think of the war itself, with Gen. Washington’s men freezing and half-starved at Valley Forge.
What doesn’t come to mind very often is how the Revolution was paid for. “Wars are fought with silver bullets,” according to a Chinese saying, meaning that the side with the most money usually wins. But in the case of the revolution, Great Britain--the richest country in Europe and the possessor of the most advanced financial system--lost despite its silver bullets. And it lost to a ragtag bunch of former colonies that didn’t have a regular money supply, let alone a financial system. Nor did the rebels have the capacity to manufacture arms or gunpowder in any quantity.
Morris, who was a signer of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, never fought in battle. But it’s doubtful that the US could have won its independence without him. Born in Liverpool, England, he was the son of a man employed as a tobacco factor handling the British side of the vast trade with the Chesapeake colonies. Morris’s father left for America when Robert was still a toddler. At age 13, the boy followed his father to this country and was soon sent to Philadelphia to study.
Mr. Rappleye has a gift for explaining the complicated financial and mercantile world of the late 18th century, the milieu in which Robert Morris grew up, thrived and, eventually, went broke.
...a great story, told with narrative skill and scholarly authority....
I think, in order to better understand the mercantile world that Meeker thrived in, this book is a must for me! I will post relevant followups.
ROBERT MORRIS by Gilbert Stuart Philadelphia, 1795
from Lawrence Park: Robert Morris 1734-1806

A son of Robert Morris, a merchant of Liverpool, England, who immigrated to Maryland in 1747. The son, Robert, married in 1769 Mary White. He was a delegate to the Continental Congress from 1776-1778; prime mover in establishing the Pennsylvania Bank in 1780; founder of the Bank of North America in 1781; United States Senator from Pennsylvania from 1789 to 1795; and was imprisoned for debt from 1798 to 1801. He was known as the great financier of the Revolution.


Maureen said...

have you seen the If Charlie Parker Were A... blog site, they do a Gilbert Stuart post from time to time.

Hummingbird said...

This is really interesting. I have really enjoyed your website. Very well done.

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