Blogging from A to Z April 2013 Challenge
M is for Morris
My post about James C Howington caused a bit of a stir when I mentioned his great grandfather Robert Morris signed the Declaration of Independence. Therefore, here is an entire post devoted to Robert Morris.
My sixth great grandfather was Robert Morris Jr., signer of the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of the Confederation, and the U. S. Constitution. Also, wearer of a stylish tricorn hat!
He was born in January 1734 in Liverpool, England to Robert Sr. and Elizabeth Murphet. He had 4 brothers and 3 sisters. His father was a tobacco merchant, who traded extensively with America and moved to America when Robert was a small boy. Eventually his father sent for him, and he arrived in America in 1744. While he studied in Philadelphia, his father resided in Maryland and died in an accident when wadding from a ship gun being fired in his honor, struck and killed him. I am not sure what happened to his mother. There are records of an Elizabeth Morris dying in Liverpool in 1778, but biographies of Robert say upon the death of his father, he was left an orphan at the age of 15. Those reports say his mother died when he was two, and he was raised by his maternal grandmother until he moved to America.
Following his father’s death, he served as an apprentice to a merchant in Philadelphia and upon the merchant’s death, he entered a partnership with the merchant’s son. It was called “Willing, Morris & Co.” and would last until 1793. One can understand he was trying to make a living from the goods he was shipping so was NOT happy with the tariffs and taxes Great Britain placed on those goods. They vastly cut into his profits. He signed a non-importation agreement with other merchants of Philadelphia that they would no longer trade goods with Great Britain. This must have been a considerable financial sacrifice.
By 1775, the colonist had finally had enough and wanted a separation from the British government. Later that same year, Robert was elected to the Continental Congress that met in Philadelphia (not in Washington D.C.). War was brewing. The Declaration of Independence was approved on July 4, 1776, but the actual signing didn’t take place until August 2.
During the war, he was instrumental in securing funds to supply the soldiers, including loaning 100,000 pounds of his own money and financing 80% of all bullets fired in the war.
Following the war, he was instrumental in creating the national bank. He was then appointed Senator for Pennsylvania, and in 1789, President George Washington appointed him Secretary of the Treasury, but he declined the office.
Unwise land purchases led to his bankruptcy in 1798, and he spent a few years in debtor’s prison. Following his release in 1801, he led a quiet life and died in relative poverty at the age of 73 in 1806.
There is not much detailed information about his private life, but he married Mary White in 1769, and they had 5 sons and 2 daughters. She probably had no idea that her husband would commit treason against the Crown and there would be a storm of war ahead of them, and certainly had no idea he would spend three years in prison, but she stood beside him through the good and bad until his death.
He is buried in the family vault of Bishop William White, his brother-in-law, at Christ Church churchyard in Philadelphia.
I am a member of many patriotic organizations including the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Daughters of the American Revolution. There is a group called the Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence. I guess I should check that out.