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Robert Morris: Financier of the American Revolution Hardcover – November 2, 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From 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.) (c)
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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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (November 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416570918
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416570912
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.7 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #113,027 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Metallurgist TOP 1000 REVIEWER on November 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Robert Morris is mentioned in most histories of the American Revolution, but generally only in passing. This book rectifies this lack of attention. It discuses all of his life (and that of his father), from his early business successes, his importance as a founding father (a signer of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution), his importance in the funding of the Revolutionary War, his association with the great men of America (most importantly with George Washington), and finally his great land speculation failure which landed him in debtors prison. Rappleya also introduces us to Revolutionary War figures such as Silas Deane and Arthur Lee (both of whom were Continental Congress envoys to France) who are even less well known than Morris. I also found that this book corrected many false ideas that I previously held, for instance that Robert and Gouverneur Morris were related (they were not).

The book is divided into three sections; the first titled "Revolutions" details Morris's actions as a merchant arranging for supplies for the American army and his actions as a member of the government of Pennsylvania and the Continental Congress, the second tilted "The Financier" deals with his actions as a financier during the war, and the third titled "The New Republic" discusses Morris's post war personal finances and his actions as a US Senator from Pennsylvania. I found the first section most illuminating, as this aspect of Morris's life is generally not covered in most US history books. This section delves into the complex political aspects of the war, the Continental Congress and Pennsylvania state government.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I liked this book for several reasons:
1) I never knew much about Robert Morris and his role in the revolution and I was mesmerized by this man and the work he did to help bring about a successful american revolution.
2) It was well written and the man and his work was well developed.
3) The cast of characters that this man knew was fascinating. Robert Morris was truly a significant player in the american revolution.
4) I always like learning something new and I have read many books on the american revolution but this one took me by surprise because I knew almost nothing about this man before reading this book. And after you read the book you realize that this man was just as important to the cause as Washington, Adams (both of them), etc. He was a real player.

My only negative, and it is just my "thing", is that I always prefer shorter books and not a lot of detail. This book was a bit longer than I like and a bit more detail than I like. Although I like history I do not have to be convinced that the author has done all of his homework. The critics will sort that out. Besides liking history, I like a good story and this book took on the ordeal of many of the books I read in college where you were buried in detail.

STILL, I stronly recommend this book. If you do not know about Robert Morris then you are going to find out that you have missed a "very" critical element to the revolutions success and that is ROBERT MORRIS.
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Format: Hardcover
The story of any founding father is an interesting one, however I didn't find this author's writing style to be interesting at all. As a very avid reader and a big fan of American history, I expected to really enjoy this book. Instead, I found myself wishing it was over. I've read much longer books that held my interest--this one, unfortunately, just didn't do it for me. I give it three stars because it does appear to be a well researched work, and contains a lot of information.

I mention poor editing for a couple reasons: first, I was shocked at the number of typos in the book--sentences will read something like: "the people at gathered at the yard...". I found so many instances where I had to reread a sentence because of strange repetitions like that. Secondly, and much more confusing, is the way dates are mentioned, and this also happens frequently. The author will describe events taking place over several years, and then begin the following paragraph: "In February...". In one particular instance, the author discusses Revolutionary events that actually span five years (over the course of two paragraphs), and then proceeds to say: "That March...". What March? You just covered FIVE years discussing several points--would it be so hard to start the next paragraph with the year? I found this a problem over and over, and had to backtrack to get my bearings again. This seems to pervade the whole book; instead of dealing with things in a much more sequential fashion, the events are constantly jumbled. I understand the need to occasionally add an anecdote out of place, but this book continually skips back and forth and it really breaks up the flow of the story. Another instance describes the death of a foreign dignitary...
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Rappleye did a very good job on this book. I read a lot of history and also ordered his prize winning "Sons of Providence". A good researcher of history will read the actual papers and letters of contemporaries as well as the subject. Historians can slant things however they want, but when you read what friends and coworkers of a person said about them, and what they wrote themselves, you get a better idea of the person. I hope his other book is as good as the reviews.

For anyone interested in Morris, you should read The Papers of Robert Morris. They can be found in digital form for online reading or you can buy each volume but they aren't cheap. If you really want to know about a person well, doing the research is always the way to go. It's pretty clear when you understand the Lee's/Lovell trying to oust George Washington and how they worked against Deane and Franklin what was going on in Congress and the rebel government. Just read what Hancock, Washington, Franklin, etc. wrote.

You can complain the editing may be good or bad, but the information matches what the actual letters and papers of the time say. You can't argue with the founders actual words (although you can disagree with them all you want).
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