ROBERT MORRIS: Audacious Patriot by Frederick Wagner

ROBERT MORRIS: Audacious Patriot

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Robert Morris' audacity was financial rather than physical and in order to judge his controversy-ridden career one has to rely on the interpretations of his biographers. In his all-out effort to keep the colonies solvent and supply Washington's troops Morris strained his personal credit and resorted to issuing his own ""Morris notes"" in lieu of hard cash. His daring won him the staunch support of men like Washington and Franklin but also made him bitter enemies among those who suspected that Morris profited from the intermixing of his public and private business. Wagner admires Morris for being ""ahead of his time"" in trying to make the states pay their share of the Revolution's costs and generally discounts the contemporary criticism of Morris' ostentation and poor record-keeping; however, his account of Morris' later bankruptcy through wild speculation and apparent mental breakdown makes one wonder whether these earlier charges didn't have some solid basis. This literate if somewhat over-elegant essay includes interesting accounts of business and social life in the new nation's upper reaches, but its portrait of Morris is disappointingly unenergized. Students will have to be well motivated to follow the rise and fall of Morris with no more guidance than Wagner provides, but perhaps the lack of popularly available material will be motivation enough.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1976
Publisher: Dodd, Mead