nav bar
coat of arms lewis morris
Lewis Morris

The Man
The Poet
The Family


Uncle's Will empty Funeral empty Property empty Library empty Love for Wife

In the name of God amen: God's will be done; but what I will or desire should be done after my decease, and how I would have what estate God has been pleased to bless me with, disposed of, is contained in what follows:

But before I give any directions concerning the disposition of my body or estate, I think it my duty to leave the following testimonial of my sense of the goodness of God to me, in protecting and wonderfully preserving of me, from my infancy to this present time, now in an advanced age.


My mother died when I was about six months old, and my father not long after, in New-York, where I was left an orphan, entirely in the hands of strangers who were appointed by the government to take care of me. Sometime after that, the Dutch took the place and I was put by their magistrates into the hands of trustees, by them appointed, to take care of me and of what effects their soldiers had left unplundered; and after the surrender of New-York to the English, my uncle came into these parts of America, and kindly took care of me until I came to man's estate; and he then dying, what he had fell into my hands, being his sole and only heir.

He had made a will, in which were found several material interlinations and erasures; which will, when exhibited before the Governor and Council fo New-York to be proved, of six subscribing witnesses to the said will, only two of them could make oath in due form of law; and they knew nothing of those erasures and interlinations; and one William Bickley, a Quaker, who wrote the will, said that he wrote the will, and made them; but knew not why they were made.

My uncle by that will having bequeathed his plantation over-against the town of Haerlem, to his wife; but for what estate, did not appear; the words being scratched or erased out so as not to be read, and instead of what was so erased, there was after the words, Mary Morris)which was the name of his widow), these words, viz., (her heirs and assignes forever, the lands thereof) interlined. The widow died about a week after her husband (the will having been in her and Bickley's keeping all that tiem), and after, or about the time of her death, I was told of this erasure by Miles Forster, one of the executors in the will named.

This will was dated the 12th of February, 1690, but a little before my uncle's death, and exhibited for proof the 15th of May following, at which time the erasure, and reason for making of it, must have been fresh in the memory of the writer, who declared he knew of it; and must have been fresh in the memory of the witnesses, had any such thing been shown unto them. That Bickley should know of, and make this erasure and interlination, and not know or remember the reason of making it in so short a time after it was done, appeared strange to all present; and most were of the opinion, that the words erased out, were of different import from those interlined, or there had been no necessity for making the erasure and interlination; but as the writer of the will either could not, or would not tell for what end they were made, though it appeared to be done with intent to vest an estate in fee simple in the widow, which it is probable the words erased did not do; and only two witnesses being able to make oath in due form, and these not knowing any thing concerning it; administration was committed to me, with the testament annexed; and I have since purchased releases from the heirs and legatees of the widow, and have been in quiet posession above fifty-three years.

Thus, by the sole goodness of Almighty God, my benign Creator, the designs against me were rendered ineffectual, without any contrivance or act of my own. Whether my uncle was persuaded, or really intended to give that estate to his wife and her heirs; or whether he had given it to her for life, and so intended, and the words interlined were done after his death; or if he did intend to give it to her in fee, and the writer had not made use of proper words for that purpose (though he had done it in every other cases where an estate was given to me in fee) and discovered it to my uncle, and made the alteration during his life, and by his consent; or discovered them after his death, and then made the erasure and interlination; is what I know nothing of, and what the writer of the will either could not or would not say any thing about; but it is evident on the face of the will, that every bequest to me, either of lands or chattels, even of my mother's jewels, and what in the will was mentioned to belong to her, and did only belong to me, was given (as the writer of the will called it) with restriction and limitation (meaning as I suppose with this condition) that I should submit myself wholly and absolutely to every thing contained in that will; and it was therein determined, that if I, or any body claiming under me, should under pretence of right from my father, whether by partnership with my uncle or otherwise, make any claim ro demand of the estate left by my uncle, or any part of it, that in such case the bequests to me were to be void.

The drawer of that will had purchased and read (with all the judgment he had) a book, entitled Orphan's Legacy, in order to qualify him for that performance; and so apprehensive was the contriver or contrivers of that will of my making such claim, and that the law might determine in my favour; that by a clause in that will it was directed, that if any doubt or controversy should arise, by reason of imperfection, defect, or any other cause whatsoever, of, or in any words, clauses and sentences in his last will and testament, or about the true intent and meaning thereof; that in such case, his executors, or any three of them, should expound, explain, interpret, and finally decide the same, according their wisdoms and discretions.

There had been articles of agreement and partnership entered into between my uncle and my father, and executed by both the parties; in which among other things, it was covenanted and agreed between them, that if either of them died without issue, the survivor, or issue of the survivor (if any) should take the estate. Upon the death of my father, that part of the agreement executed by my uncle, with other than my father's papers, came into the hands of my uncle, and upon his death into Bickley's (as I suppose), who kept the keys of his scruitore: That part of the agreement executed by my father, I had seen often, and it came into my hands; but that part executed by my uncle was made away with; who destroyed it, I can't say; but believe my uncle was too just a man to do any thing of that nature.

It appears from all this, that there was a design made to deprive me of the greatest part of the estate my uncle possessed of, and that this design was defeated. That this might be accounted for from natural and obvious causes, such as the erasure of the will, and the life, may be; but what confounded the understanding of the writer so as to make the erasure in that particular place, and in the manner he did, and to pretend not to be able in so short a time after it was done, to give any account why it was done, I attribute only to the over-whelming providence of the Almight, who has wonderfully protected and preserved me hitherto; and I doubt not will continue his goodness to me till he thinks fit to call me hence, though I am unworthy of the least of his favours.


I now proceed to directions concerning the disposal of my body and estate; and first, I will, that my body be buried by the bodies of my uncle and my children that lie at Morrisania, if it can be conveniently done. I would be buried in a plain coffin of black walnut, cedar, or mahogany, without covering or lining with cloth, or any other material of linnen, in such manner as my executors shall think fit: I forbid any rings or scarfs to be given at my funeral, or any man to be paid for preaching a funeral sermon over me: Those who survive me, will commend or blame my conduct in life as they think fit, and I am not paying of any man for doing of either; but if any man, whether Churchman or Dissenter, in or not in priest's orders, is inclined to say any thing on that occasion, he may, if my executors think fit to admit him to do it.

I would not have any mourning worn for me by any of my descendants; for I shall die in a good old age and when the Divine Providence calls me hence; I die when I should die, and no relation of mine ought to mourn because I do so; but may perhaps mourn to pay the shop keeper for his goods, should they comply with (what I think) the common folly of such an expence.

I will (if it be not done before my death), that a vault of stone be built at or nigh the place at Morrisania, where my good uncle lies buried; and that the remains of my relations lying there, be collected and put into coffins in it; and my executors may get a tomb stone for me if they think fit.

I am now, and I doubt not I shall die, in the firme belief that there is one God, the Creator of all things, who governs the world, as he sees most suitable, to answer the purposes of his divine providence. What the state of the dead is I know not, but believe it to be such as is most suitable for them, and that their condition and state of existence after death will be such as will fully show the wisdom, justice, and goodness of their great Creator to them.


As to what estate it has pleased God to intrust and bless me with, I will and dispose of it as follows:

First. I will as the law wills, that all my debts and funeral charges be justly paid and discharged as soon as may be done.

Item. [Lewis Morris]
I give and bequeath all that part of the mannour of Morrisania that lies to the Eastward of the Mill brook and Mill creek, and is now in the possession and occupation of my eldest son Lewis Morris, unto my said eldest son Lewis Morris, his heirs and assigns forever.

Item. [wife, Lewis Morris, Robert Hunter Morris]
All the other part of the mannour of Morrisania that lies to the Westward of the said Mill brook and Creek, and now called by the name of Old Morisania, together with all the negroes now upon it or that belongs to it, and have been bound out for a term of years either by myself, or any of my children for my use, together with all the cattle, hogs, sheep, stock, tools and utensils of husbandry now upon and belonging to the said land, I give and bequeath to my good and deservedly well beloved wife Isabella Morris for and during her natural life. I will that my said wife shall have the disposal of the one fourth part of all my negroes, cattle, sheep, hogs, beds, linnen, plate, now belonging to me at Morrisania or Kingsbury in New Jersey to such of my children as she shall think it, either by her last will or during her life, as she shall judge best. I will that my said wife shall have the use of all my plate and household stuff during her natural life; and the rmaining three fourths, after her death, I give and bequeath to my two sons Lewis Morris and Robert Hunter Morris, to be equally divided between them.

I will that what money, paper currency and bonds I die possessed of shall be divided into three equal parts; one of which parts I give and bequeath to my said wife, to dispose of as she shall think proper; one other third part to my son Lewis Morris, and the other third part to my son Robert Hunter Morris, I hereby give and bequeath.

[Margaret Graham]
I will that Mrs. Margaret Graham, my wife's sister, have her diet, washing and lodging on that part of my mannour of Morrisania hereby given to my wife, during her life.

[Margaret Morris]
I will that my daughter Margaret Morris have her diet, washing and lodging on my estate at Morrisania aforesaid until she marries, and twenty pounds current money of New York yearly until she marries; and beging now unmarried, in case she marries after my decease, I will that my executors pay unto her the sum of one hundred and fifty pounds money of New York for her outset. This outset is on condition that she marries by and with the consent of her mother, if she be alive.

I give and bequeath unto my said daughter Margaret Morris and to her heirs and assigns forever, seven hundred acres of my land in the Mohawks country, adjoining unto a place known by the name of Antonies Nose, adn bounded on the Northward by the Mohawks river. I will that the said seven hundred acres of land be surveyed to her in one tract or parcel out of my lands there, and bounded on the Mohawks river to the Northward, and by the Eastern and Western bounds of the said tract, and Southerly by the remaining part of the said tract, and to contain within the lowlands adjoining to the Mohawks river. I except out of this bequest, all the mines and minerals contained in this seven hundred acres of land, as well discovered as not, which I do not intend shall be given my daughter by this bequest.

[Mary Morris]
In case my daughter Mary Pearse comes into this country, it is my will that she have her diet, washing and lodging at Morrisania if she thinks fit to be there; and if, through some defect in the conveyances or otherwise, those lands formerly given by me to her husband for a marriage portion, and since conveyed by his attorney to some persons by his order to her use, should not come to her use, and the conveyances prove ineffectual for that purpose, then and in such case it is my will that she have her diet, washing and lodging at Morrisania or Tinton in Jersey, which she will choose, during the state of separation from her husband, and ten pounds current money of New York paid her yearly out of my estate at Morrisania, and ten pounds like money yearly out of my estate at Tinton in New Jersey, during such separation; and in case of her husband's death (no effectual provision being made, either by these lands reconveyed or otherwise, sufficient for her support), then it is my will that she have the diet and lodging and the ten pounds yearly as above mentioned, continued to her during her widowhood.

[Lewis Morris]
I give and bequeath (after the death of my wife) all my lands at Morrisania hereby given to my wife during her natural life to my son Lewis Morris during his natural life; with power to dispose of the same by his last will and testament to which of his sons he shall think fit, either for life, years or in fee, as he shall judge most proper.

[Robert Hunter Morris]
I give and bequeath to my son Robert Hunter Morris all my negroes, cattle and all other my personal estate now at Tinton in the county of Monmouth in New Jersey not herein otherwise disposed of. I did thro' mistake omit to mention the name of my son Robert Hunter Morris in my last bequest on the other side of this leafe and interlined it, and therefore do here repeat it, viz: that I give and bequeath to my son Robert Hunter Morris, all my negroes, cattle and all other my personal estate now at Tinton in the county of Monmouth in New Jersey not herein otherwise disposed of, I give and bequeath to my said son Robert Hunter Morris and to his heirs and assigns forever, all my manour of Tinton, and all the lands, mines, minerals and water-courses thereof, and all mines, minerals and lands, belonging unto me in the Eastern and Western division of New Jersie, and all privileges and liberties for fishing, carting or otherwise reserved to my uncle on sale of the lands at Passage Point in Shrewsbury, now in the tenure and occupation of Richard Saltar; and all lands, rights, privileges, liberties, mines, and minerals granted to my uncle Lewis Morris by patent from Sr George Carteret or his Governour of New Jersey, or by the Proprietors of New Jersey or any of their Governours afterwards; and all my lands in Salem county in New Jersey purchased by my father and afterwards conveyed to my uncle by John Fenwick, Esqr, and all papers, parchments, patents, deeds, escrips, miniments relating to the premises above mentioned or any part thereof herin given and bequeathed to my son Robert Hunter Morris, his heirs and assigns forever.

I will and appoint that all my lands in that part of New York Province Known formerly by the name of Evands Patent be sold by my executors or survivors or survivor of them, and applied towards payment of my debts and legacies as they or the survivors or survivor of them shall think proper to apply the money arising by such sale to the purpose aforesaid.


[wife, Lewis Morris, Robert Hunter Morris]
I give and bequeath to my son Lewis Morris all my bookes and manuscripts not herein otherwise disposed of, to be carefully Kept by him, and to descend as an heir loom, which I hope may be with care increased; but my will is that my son Robert may have the use of the law books while he continues Chief Justice of this province of New Jersey, and after that to be returned to my son Lewis or his heir. I will that an exact catalogue be made of them and their editions, and I forbid any of them to be lent on any account whatsoever, unless to my wife during her widowhood, who may from time to time have the use of such of them as she thinks proper, returning them again.


[wife, Lewis Morris, Robert Hunter Morris]
Lastly. I name and appoint my good and loving and deservedly well beloved wife Isabella Morris, and my two sons Lewis Morris and Robert Hunter Morris, and the survivors and survivor of them, to be the executors and exercutor of this my last will and testament, hereby revoking and making null and void all former wills and testaments or codicils by me made. And I recommend to my sons and children to be kind, tender and affectionate to their mother, she having been always so to them, and not to suffer the infirmities of old age to abate the respect and regard they ought to pay to her. I heartily recommend to them a love and affection to each other, and that they will avoid, as much as may be done, all occasions of difference and distrust amongst themselves. And I humbly pray the good God may always protect, direct and influence them to act as becomes them.

emptyLEWIS MORRIS. [l.s.]

Signed, sealed and published by Lewis Morris as his last will and testament, and the whole will being wrote, as the said Morris declared, in his own handwriting. Published in presence of us,
emptyP. Kearny.
emptyD. Martin.
emptyRalph Smith.
emptyWm. Yard, Jr.

Proved in the usual form. Jany 12, 1746.

emptyLewis Morris
Lewis Morris

family tree

Home Favorites Map

IME logo Copyright © 2002, Mary S. Van Deusen