Robert Morris’s Folly: The Architectural and Financial Failures of an American Founder

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Donna J. Rilling


Robert Morris was a Founder. He signed the Declaration of Independence. He secured loans from international bankers and with them sustained the Continental army. Pennsylvanians celebrated his success in moving the federal capital from New York to Philadelphia while the Federal City could be built. He served Pennsylvania as representative to Congress. But our view of Founders, Ryan Smith suggests in Robert Morris’s Folly, needs to be “rounded” (216 n. 12). This Founder’s business dealings, friendships, and personality unfold as we meet him at the pinnacle of his mercantile wealth and political service, then follow him to an infamous failure that triggered a rash of bankruptcies in the young nation.

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