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RICHARD Morris, the great-grandfather of Gouverneur, and the first of his a cestors who emigrated to America, left England in the time of Cromwell, and settled in the West Indies, from whence he removed to New York, as early as the year 1670. Here he became possessed of an estate, containing more than three thousand acres of land, situated about ten miles from the city, and near the town of Harlem. Subsequently this domain was invested with manorial privileges, and received the name of Morrisania. In 1672 Richard Morris, and Sarah his wife, died, leaving a son called Lewis, about six months old, entirely in the hands of strangers, who were appointed by the government to take care of him.* After the surrender of New York to the English, by the peace of 1674, his uncle, Captain Lewis Morris, t emigrated from the island of Barbadoes to America, and, settling at Morrisania, took him under his care, and finally made him heir to his fortune.
The youth of Lewis Morris, the nephew, was wild and frivolous. Smith, the colonial historian of New York, records an incident of his early career. “Hugh Copperthwait, a Quaker zealot, was young Morris's preceptor; the pupil taking advantage of his enthusiasm, hid himself in a hollow tree, and calling to him, ordered him to preach the gospel among the Mohawks. The credulous Quaker took it for a miraculous call, and was upon the point of setting out, when the cheat was discovered."
Endued with strong passions, young Morris gave frequent offence to his uncle, and, on one of those occasions, through fear of his resentment, “strolled away into Virginia, and thence to Jamaica, in the West Indies, where, to support himself, he set up for a scrivener.” Some time after, tired of a life of dissipation and dependence, he returned to his uncle's roof, where he was received with joy and kindness. Possessed of solid natural powers and ambitious of preferment, ne soon entered upon public life, in which he afterward exerted the greatest influence. He was one of the Council of the Province of New Jersey, and, in 1692, a judge of the Supreme Court
• History of New York, by William Dunlap, vol. 1, page 272.
+ The Morris family were originally of Welsh extraction. It was reprosented in 1635 by three brothers, Lewis, William, and Richard Morris. Lewis, who inherited the paternal estate of Tintern, raised a troop of horse in support of the Parlia. ment, for which Charles the First confiscated his estates in Monmouthshire. In return for his losses, Oliver Cromwell subsequently indemnified him. At the attack upon Chepstow Castle, which was defended by Sir Nicholas Kemish, the king's general, Lewis Morris was the second in command. After an obstinate resistance the garrison was reduced, by cutting off the supply of water which ran through the estate of Pearcefield, then owned by Colonel Morris's son-in-law, John Walters, and setting fire to the castle. From this circumstance, the family assumed as their crest a castle in flames, with the following motto: “Tandem vincitur"-at length he is conquered! In 1654 ho was despatched by Cromwell to the Spanish West Indies, with orders to make himself master of those seas. In this undertaking he was aided by his nephew, Captain John Morris, who had been long settled on the Island of Barbadoes.
While in this service, Captain Lewis Morris purchased a large estate in that island. When the Protector sent forces to attack Hispaniola, under Admirals Perin and Venables, he forwarded a vacant regiment and a color.el's commission to him, with the instructions that the forces were to land as directed by Colonel Morris. The failure of the expedition is said to have been owing, in a great measure, to a non-compliance with his directions. In the attack upon the Island of Jamaica, Lewis was second in command. On the restoration of King Charles the Second, Colonel Morris deemed it prudent not to return to England, where his family had played so bold a part. In 1663 he, with others, purchased the Island of St. Lucia of Amiwatta Baba, chief proprietor of the Carribee Islands, and in 1674 he emigrated to America.—Bolton's History of Westchester County, vol. 2, page 285.
there. Subsequently, for several years, he was a member of the assembly of that colony, and became its first governor, on its establishment as a separate province from New York. He alsc occupied the office of Chief Justice of New York. Shortly after his return from the West Indies, he was married to a Miss Graham,* by whom he had twelve children, four sons and eight daughters. His two eldest sons, Lewis and Robert Hunter, became distinguished in public service.
Lewis, the father of Gouverneur Morris, the subject of the present sketch, resided on the family estate at Morrisania, and at an early age was a member of the New York Legislature. During the latter years of his life he was judge of Vice-Admiralty of New York, having jurisdiction also over all maritime affairs in Connecticut and New Jersey. He had eight children, of whom four were sons. Gouverneur was the youngest by a second marriage, and was born at Morrisania, on the thirty-first of January, 1752. At an early age he was placed in the family of M. Tetar, at New Rochelle, where he acquired a thorough knowledge of the French language, which, in after life, he wrote and spoke with nearly as much fluency and correctness as his native tongue. After due preparation he entered King's, now Columbia College, where he graduated on the seventeenth of May, 1768. In the exercises of the commencement, he pronounced an oration on Wit and Beauty, in which he “acquitted himself with credit, ard won the applause of his auditory.” On leaving college he was presented with a silver medal, by the literary society connected with the college. I
Having resolved to devote himself to the profession of the law, he commenced a course of study under the direction of William Smith, at that time one of the most eminent lawyers, and subsequently chief justice of the province of New York. In May, 1771, he received his second degree, and, in accordance with the custom then prevailing in the higher educational institutions of the country, delivered another ration. His subject at this time was l.ove. In that effort he treated of the objects and uses of love; of love as a religious sentiment, of benevolence and patriotism, of parental, filial, and connubial love, and traced the consequences of that allpervading principle on the order of nature and condition of men. Of the love of country, he eloquently spoke. “There is some secret principle within us," he said, “some innate tenderness for that spot where we first drew our breath, first saw the light, the scene of our infant ioys, some gentle effusion of divinity congenial with the soul, which enforces it far beyond the power of reason. This is a universal principle of patriotism confined by no bounds. It rules in all countries and in all nations. The sons of tyranny acknowledge it; the meanest slave has through this, an affection for his country. What then must be his love, who has tasted liberty at the fountain, who lives under a constitution dispensing the joys of freedom wherever it prevails, who possesses the sacred rights of a British subject; rights torn from the heart of tyranny, nourished with the best blood of his ancestors, and transmitted to him on the point of their swords! A Briton's love of country is fixed on the solid basis of freedom. Liberty! Nurse of heroes! Parent of worth! Best blessing of society ! Long continue to smile upon this happy soil. Grant that my countrymen may feel the fulness of thy influence, that they may nobly advance under the shadow of thy wings in the pursuit of true glory, rise virtuously superior to the ills of fortune, and attain to that perfection, in attempting to acquire which, the Romans failed. May they ever be loyal, may they ever be free." I
In the winter of 1769, a project for raising money by issuing bills of credit, was brought before the Assembly of New York. As this money was to pay the debts of the colony, it was popular with the people; but some of "the sensible men of the province," were opposed to the scheme, seeing no absolute relief in it, and an increase of difficulties at the end. At this time, young Morris entered upon the discussion of the question. He wrote anonymously against the project, and deprecatel “the evil of a paper currency, as no other than a mischievous pretence
* The History of the Province of New York, from the first discovery to the year 1782, by William Smith. Edition 1757 + Life of Gouverneur Morris, by Jared Sparks, vol. 1, page 4. # Holt's New York Journal; or the General Advertiser, of May 26th, 1768. $ See notice of Judge Smith, at page 83, ante. | New York Gazette and Weekly Mercury, of May 27th, 1771. Life of Gouvornear Morris, vol. 1, page 18.
for putting off a day of payment, which must come at some time, and which ought to be mot promptly by substantial funds collected from the resources of the province.”
He commenced the practice of law, as an attorney, in October, 1771, and soon gave proofs of his extensive powers and extraordinary eloquence. In 1775, he was chosen a member of the Provincial Congress of New York, in which body he attracted attention by a report and speech on the mode of emission of a paper currency by the Continental Congress. In the fall of 1777, he was appointed a delegate to the General Congress, then in session at Yorktown, Pennsylvania ; Philadelphia being in the hands of the British. A short time after his arrival at the Congress, he was appointed on a committee to investigate the state of the American army, then at Valley Forge, enduring unparalleled sufferings, from the effects of exposure, want of clothing and of food, and to report such measures as should be deemed necessary for its relief. Here the committee remained three months, during which time they prepared a new plan for the army, and, about the middle of April, 1778, returned to Yorktown.
Mr. Morris resumed his congressional labors with zeal, and was of great service in advancing measures for the better support and efficiency of the American forces. He was, at an early day, placed on several committees, that required constant attention and great exertion. Here also he commenced a correspondence with General Washington, which continued, with slight interruptions, while Mr. Morris was in Congress: a correspondence which evinces the mutual regard and confidence which existed between those eminent men at that time, and which continued unabated until the close of their lives.
In 1780, being no longer in a public position, Mr. Morris established himself in Philadelphia, and resumed the practice of his profession. In the early portion of that year, he wrote a series of papers on finance, which were published in the Pennsylvania Packet, over the signature of An American. Early in the month of May, 1780, he was thrown from his carriage, and injured to such an extent as to render the amputation of his left leg necessary. During the operation, he maintained great cheerfulness and elasticity of spirits, even while suffering intense pain. The day following the accident, a friend called to see him, who thought it his duty to offer as much consolation as he could, on an event so melancholy. IIe enlarged upon the good effects which such a trial would produce on his character and moral temperament, and the diminished inducements it would leave for seeking the pleasures and dissipations of life, into which young men are too apt to be led. “My good sir," replied Mr. Morris, “you argue the matter so handsomely, and point out so clearly the advantages of being without legs, that I am almost tempted to part with the other.” On another similar occasion, he remarked, “O, sir, the loss is much less than you imagine; I shall doubtless be a steadier man with one leg than with two." * A plain wooden leg was substituted for his loss," and he soon acquired such a facility in its use, that it gave him little trouble, either in walking or in the other movements of the body."
In July, 1781, Mr. Morris was appointed assistant to Robert Morris, the superintendent of the finances of the United States, and remained in that position, closely devoting himself to its duties, during the space of three years. After the war he resigned, and again entered upon the practice of the law, at the same time continuing his connection with Robert Morris in private commercial enterprises. On the death of his mother, in 1786, he became possessed of the estate at Morrisania, by purchase, but he did not take up his residence there for several years. In 1787, he was a member of the Federal Convention from the State of Pennsylvania, and continued in that body during the whole of its deliberations, with the exception of a few days which were devoted to the arrangement of his private affairs. His services at this time can best be estimated from the following portion of a letter from James Madison, of the date, April 8th, 1831 : “It may be justly said, that he was an able, an eloquent, and an active member. * * The finish given to the style and arrangement of the constitution fairly belongs to the pen of Mr. Morris; the task having, probably, been handed over to him by the chairman of the committee, himself a highly respectable member, and with the ready concurrence of the others. A better choice could not have been made, as the performance of the task proved. It is true
* Life of Gouverneur Morris, by Jared Sparks, vol. 1, page 228.