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LEARNING: History & Education | December 25, 2004


 An Essay in My Christmas Newsletter

Almost all of my mother's family and I are Catholic. Almost all of my father's family is Lutheran. Both sides of my family are of German descent. Living here in the Los Angeles area, I have made friends and acquaintances of every possible description; and almost without exception, the one thing they have in common is that they are proud to be good Americans. Allow me to share with you the little known story of a true hero, with whom I have little in common...other than a love for our country.

Haym Salomon was a Jewish American who lived during Colonial Times. Like so many others, of so many different faiths, Salomon had come to this country seeking freedom from religious persecution. And like so many other of our founders, such as Franklin and Jefferson, Salomon had prospered in America and earned his fortune.

When war broke out, Salomon helped the Continental Congress and our ally of France in affairs not only of finance but also of espionage, particularly in persuading Hessian mercenaries to desert the British forces. Narrowly escaping the fate of his fellow spy, Nathan Hale, Salomon would survive the Revolution and see the blessings of liberty.

However, after years of war, the new nation was deep in debt. Salomon then not only worked to secure foreign loans but also loaned our government and statesmen such as James Madison hundreds of thousands of dollars from his personal fortune -- much of which was never repaid. Salomon died penniless but ever proud to be a patriot.

Despite his sacrifices for America, Salomon had to fight widespread anti-Semitism, which President Washington himself condemned in a famous letter to a congregation of American Jews: "...happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection, should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support...May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid."

Having put his life, fortune, and sacred honor on the line when our country needed him the most, Haym Salomon was a true American hero.

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