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Lewis Morris

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The Man


Dictionary of American Biographies p. 213
Lewis Morris (October 15, 1671 - May 21, 1746), chief justice of New York and governor of New Jersey, was the first lord of the manor of Morrisania in New York.

In 1692 he was appointed a judge of the court of common right of East Jersey and was named a member of Governor Andrew Hamilton's council. He vigorously supported Hamilton, but in 1698 he opposed the appointment of Governor Jeremiah Basse on the ground that the choice had been made by only ten of the required sixteen proprietors. His obstructive tactics resulted in his dismissal from the governor's council.

Although Governor Fletcher had issued royal letters patent in May 1697 erecting Morris' New York estate into the manor of Morrisania, the new lord was less interested in his manorial grant than in the politics of New Jersey. He went to England in 1702 to promote the transfer of political authority from the Jersey proprietors to the Crown. Ambitious to be the first royal governor of the province, he was keenly disappointed when the ministry named Lord Cornbury to be governor of both New York and New Jersey. As a member of Cornbury's council for New Jersey, Morris became an outspoken opponent of that unscrupulous official. Dismissed from the council, he was elected in 1707 to the assembly, where he collaborated with Samuel Jennings in formulating the protest to Queen Anne against Cornbury's reprehensible conduct, which was largely responsible for the governor's removal from office.

After 1710, Morris supported the admirable administration of his friend Robert Hunter. He spent more time in New York, especially after Hunter appointed him chief justice of the supreme court of that province (1715). He continued, however, to serve upon the govenor's council for New Jersey under Burnet andd Montgomerie. With the administration of Governor William Cosby the lord of Morrisania found himself once more at odds with the representative of the Crown. When Cosby sought to establish a court of chancery to hear his suit against Rip Van Dam, chief-justtice Morris pronounced the whole proceeding illegal, whereupon the governor removed him and appointed James De Lancey, 1703-1760, in his place (August 21, 1733). Morris was elected to the assembly from the town of Eastchester, and joined James Alexander and William Smith in championing the popular cause against the "court party" led by Cosby and De Lancey. In 1734 he presented the assembly's grievances in London, where he failed to secure the removal of Governor Cosby but won a vindication of his own conduct as chief justice.

When the political connection between New York and New Jersey was severed, he became governor of the latter province (1738). Though he had challenged the royal prerogative as represented by Cornbury and Cosby, he permitted no questioning of his own authority. He frequently lectured the provincial assembly on its duties and complained to the lords of trade in 1740 that the legislators "fancy themselves to have as much power as a British House of commons, and more" ("Papers of Governor Lewis Morris," post, p.23). His administration was marked by bitter and wordy quarrels with the assembly over taxation, support of the militia, issuance of bills of credit, and validity of land titles.

For many years Lewis Morris was an active churchman, serving from 1697 to 1700 as a vestryman of Trinity Church and encouraging the Society for the Propogation of the Gospel in its missionary enterprises. In 1702 he suggested to the Society that New York, as the center of English America, was a proper place for a college and that Queen Anne might be persuaded to grant her farm in New York toward the project. Morris' public career was never touched by the least suspicion of political jobbery. His enemies accused him of inordinate vanity, and no doubt he was fully conscious of his talents, which were great. The contentious spirit, manifest in his youth, grew stronger with the passing years and involved him in controversy until his death, which occured at "Kingsbury" near Trenton. He was buried at Morrisania with simple rites in accordance with the terms of his will. The bulk of his estate was divided between his son Lewis, who became second lord of the manor and his son Robert Hunter Morris, who inherited the New Jersey property.

"The Papers of Lewis Morris, Governor of the Province of New Jersey,"
emptyNJ Hist. Soc. Colls., vol. IV (1852)
Robert Bolton, A Hist. of the County of Westchester (2 volumes, 1848)
William Smith, The Hist. of the Late Province of NY (1829)
Archives of the State of NJ, i ser. IV-VII (1882-83)
EB O'Callaghan, Documents Relative to the Colonial History

Letters to Family empty Will empty Descendants empty Biographies


The Friends and Enemies


FRIENDS
Governor Robert Hunter
Although Robert Hunter was only governor from 1710-1719, Lewis Morris was a close enough friend to name a son for him, Robert Hunter Morris, in 1700.

Governor John, Lord Lovelace
Address to Lord Lovelace

Governor William Burnet
James Alexander
Feb 24, 1734-5 - We talk in America of applications to parliament. Alas! my friend, parliaments are parliaments every where; here, as well as with us, though more numerous. We admire the heavenly bodies which glitter at a distance; but should we be removed into Jupiter or Saturn, perhaps we should find it composed of as dark materials as our own earth ... We have a parliament and ministry, some of whom, I am apt to believe, know that there are plantations and governors - but not quite so well as we do; like the frogs in the fable, the mad pranks of a plantation-governor is sport to them, though death to us, and seem less concerned in ours contests than we are at those between crows and kingbirds. Governors are called the King's representatives; and when by repeated instances of avarice, cruelty, and injustice, they extort complaints from the injured in terms truly expressive of the violence committed and injuries suffered, it must be termed a flying in the face of government; the King's representative must be treated with softness and decency - the thing complained of is nothing near so criminal in them as the manner of complaint in the injured.

And who is there that is equal to the task of procuring redress? Changing the man is far from an adequate remedy, if the thing remains the same; and we had as well keep an ill, artless governor we know, as to change him for one equally ill with more art that we do not know. One of my neighbors used to say that he always rested better in a bed abounding with fleas after they had filled their bellies, than to change it for a new one equally full of hungry ones; the fleas having no business there but to eat. The inference is easy.

Sir Charles Wager
Oct 12th, 1739 - ...I was glad to find by yours that you were in good health in an age so far advanced as yours is, and I hope it will continue for the sake of your family and of so many others who are so much concerned in it: I am following close at your heels being within a few days of entering into my 69th year, but thank God enjoy a good state of health, but sencible of some decay of memory, and loss of teeth w'ch have long since left me to mumble my meat as well as I can with my gumms.

Benjamin Smith
Jan 3, 1739 - My good friend Smith: I receiv'd yours about the time I was going to York, to which place the worst business call'd me, viz. the attending a lawsuit of my own: that, and the hurry I have since been in has been the means of preventing the answering of yours of the 13th of Septemb last:

Richard Smith
Feb 5, 1739 - My good friend Smith: ... I thank you for your kind letter of the 23d of Jan'ry & for the free opinion you give me in it. I thought myselfe under a necessity of dissolving the last Assembly seeing no liklyhood or probability of that set of men agreeing among themselves ...

I would write to your nephew RIchard Smith Junr in Answer to his handsome letter to me, but i cannot do it at present without staying your Messengr longer than I would do: pray give him the tender of myb est regards, & tell him I very much approve of his refusall to qualifie in the manly manner he has done & for the reasons he has given. My inclination was for putting my friend Isaak Pierson among the Judges, but declined it for the present to avoid giving any Pretence to Ill an Licentious tongues to abuse him on that head. I am not without hopes that a litle time will make the Country think of them as they deserve.
emptyI am wth sincere respect
emptyYour Affectionate friend, emptyL.M.

William Morris
Richard Partridge
Nov 7, 1745 - My friend Partridge: I have reciev'd yours of July 1st 1745 by Waddel via New York, And allso yours of ye 3d of May via Boston, and severall others; and in particular one via Pensilvania by Capt Mesnard. I tyank you for all of them and for ye Magazines and papers you sent in them, tho' their contents was something of the oldest; but such things are alwayes acceptable to me.
... You advice to me I take very kindly, and would venture to go very great lengths (notwithstanding the Assemblyes rudness to me,) to make them Easie if I could:

ENEMIES
Governor Edward Hyde, Lord Cornbury
Acting Governor Richard Ingoldsby
Governor William Cosby

William A. Whitehead, Editor, The Papers of Lewis Morris, Governor of the Province of New Jersey, from 1738 to 1746, New Jersey Historical Society, New York, George P. Putnam, 1852.

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Raised Quaker by his rigidly Quaker Uncle Lewis Morris, Lewis Morris gravitated away from his uncle's church and to the Anglican. As Governor, Morris was forced to deal with the problems caused by the need to raise a militia in a time of war when you had a large Quaker population.

Letter to Governor George Clinton, May 23, 1744
Letter to Governor George Clinton, May 31, 1744
Letter to the Duke of New Castle, June 10, 1744
Letter to the Lords of Trade, June 11, 1744
Letter to Governor George Clinton, July 14, 1744
Letter from Governor George Clinton, July 23, 1744

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