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Robert Morris: Financier of the American Revolution Paperback – Bargain Price, November 1, 2011
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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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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The book helps to put all of this in an historical perspective, particularly regarding the interactions and politics of all of the important players involved in our nation's founding. It's obvious that the author, Mr. Rappleye, did a lot of research and worked quite hard to provide this important detail in order to immerse the reader in the tone and texture of early America and colonial life.
I had issues with the author's writing style, a bit too much repetition regarding Mr. Morris' standup reputation, and particularly with his handling of sequencing and time lines. The interesting character and depth of Mr. Morris easily overcomes these short comings and pulls you back in.
I'm now reading Brand's book on Franklin. Another extraordinary character.
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).
This is a great read & I highly recommend it.