Debtors Prison, Robert Morris


Robert Morris

Robert Morris

The economy of the United States banks on the multitudes being in debt loans and credit cards. There was a day that you would be thrown into prison for not being able to pay your debts.

Here is an excerpt from the book, Reminiscences of Rev. Henry Boehm, (page 162) which is very sobering to know that fate of someone who had greater riches than our own country and funded our revolutionary war. Henry Boehm lived from 1776 to 1876. He is writing from his accounts.

“People were in those days imprisoned for debt, and as there were many in debt, so there were many prisoners. ROBERT MORRIS, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, the intimate friend of Washington, one of the framers of the Federal Constitution, and the great financier of the Revolution, whose credit for a time was better than his country’s, lost all his property and became bankrupt, and was confined in this very prison for debt for a long time, to the shame of the city of brotherly love and to the shame of his country. But the year before I was there death came to his relief, on May 6, 1806. He died in poverty at the age of seventy-three.”

Robert Morris, known as the “Financier of the Revolution,” was more than just a contributor of money.

  • signer of the Declaration of Independence
  • signer of the Articles of Confederation
  • signer of the United States Constitution
  • elected to the Pennsylvania Assembly
  • chairman of the Pennsylvania Committee of Safety
  • member of the Second Continental Congress where he served as the Chairman of the Secret Committee
  • member of the Committee of Correspondence
  • served as Superintendent of Finance
  • was Agent of Marine without pay, controlling the Continental Navy
  • was one of Pennsylvania’s original pair of U.S. senators
  • went bankrupt because of his generosity
  • died in a debtors prison

It is a strange thought that Robert Morris died in prison for going into such deep debt for our freedom from England. He is an unsung hero.

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2 Responses

  1. Robert Morris didn’t die in prison. Congress passed a law creating our first Bankruptcy act, the Dictionary of American History claims, in order to get him out of prison. The man was a scoundrel and belonged in prison for his efforts to swindle both Indians, settlers, and investors. His Federalist allies lost money because of his folly, and he really doesn’t deserve our sympathy.

    • Not sure what your resource is. Mine was from a family member who lived from 1776 to 1876. He recorded what I posted in his over 600 page memoirs. There is a possibility that he had his facts wrong or that he did not have access to all of the facts. But, he was there and you and I are 200 years removed. Right now, I’m leaning toward my family member.

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