Money and the signers of the Declaration of Independence

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In celebration of our nations founding, I thought it’d be fitting to write a little bit about the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Famous as they were and respected for their work on establishing this nation, they were not immune to money troubles. Here’s some of their stories:

Although born into a very wealthy family, Thomas Jefferson was deeply in debt when he died. He suffered several financial set-backs during his life. One of note, was a loan that he co-signed with a relative who later reneged on it.

A merchant and member of Congress, Robert Morris became land poor through various unsuccessful land speculations. He eventually was sued by a creditor and ended up in jail for debt.

Well-known statesman and founding father Sam Adams tried his hand at various unsuccessful business endeavors. Although he soon found his niche in the political world, he never had a lot of money of his own. His friends were known to ante up for some of his bills.

While I don’t want to paint these men as failures, I do think we can learn from them. Here’s some thoughts:

  • It’s not a good idea to co-sign on loans for family members. As was the case with Jefferson, it can spell financial ruin for both you and your relative. Be wise, don’t co-sign.
  • Jails would be full today if it were a crime to have debt – as in Morris’ day. What we can learn from Morris is to stay within our means. Don’t go above and beyond what your income provides.
  • Adams was probably a happy-go-lucky sort and a good fellow to share a meal with. What he lacked was a healthy respect for money. Being a mooch to those around you is a drag.

I pay my respects to these late, great men. Though flawed, they put their brains together to found this great nation of ours.

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