Robert Morris, Jr., Signer of the "Declaration of Independence"

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Robert Morris, Jr.

Birthplace: Liverpool, Lancashire, England
Death: May 08, 1806 (72)
Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, United States (Asthma )
Place of Burial: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Robert Morris, Sr. and Elizabeth Murphet
Husband of Mary Morris
Father of Robert Morris, III; Thomas Morris, U.S. Congress; William White Morris; Hester Marshall; Charles Morris and 4 others
Brother of Joseph Morris; Mary Morris; Margaret Cox; John Morris and William Morris
Half brother of Sarah Morris and Thomas Wise Morris

Occupation: Merchant, financier, US Senator
Managed by: willard deuel
Last Updated:

About Robert Morris, Jr., Signer of the "Declaration of Independence"

Robert Morris, Jr. (January 20, 1734 – May 8, 1806) was a British-born American merchant, and signer of the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the United States Constitution. Morris was, next to General George Washington, "the most powerful man in America." His successful administration led to the sobriquet, "Financier of the Revolution."

Robert Morris (1734-1806), Representing Pennsylvania at the Continental Congress

  • Born: January 20, 1734 Birthplace: Lancashire, England
  • Education: Private and Apprenticeship (Merchant)
  • Work: Delegate to the Continental Congress, 1775, Appointed Special Commissioner of Finance, 1776; Author of the plan for a National Bank, 1781; Financial Agent of the United States, 1781; Delegate to the Pennsylvania Legislature, ca. 1783; Delegate to the Constitutional Convention, 1787; United States Senator, 1789-95; Appointed Secretary of the Treasury, 1789.
  • Died: May 9, 1806

Robert Morris was a man of wealth and integrity in Philadelphia during the revolutionary period. though not a scholar or a soldier, he was to play an essential role in the success of the War against England, and in placing the new United States on a firm footing in the world. Morris, almost single handed, saw to the financing of the Revolutionary War, and the establishment of the Bank of the United States after.

-- added by Maria Edmonds-Zediker, 10/1/10


Robert MORRIS, Jr. is said to have financed the American Revolution. Revisionist historians, however, may be inclined to say that, in fact, it was the Revolution which financed him. It does appear to be the case that, in the development of modern systems of finance, his influence was considerable. It should be noted that Willing, Morris & Co., the firm in which Robert MORRIS, Jr. was partner, imported about 15% of the slaves brought in through the port of Philadelphia in the eightteenth century.

The following essay is from Robert K. Wright, Jr. and Morris J. MacGregor, Jr. Soldier-Statesmen of the Constitution (United States Army, Center of Military History, Washington, D.C., 1987):

Robert Morris Pennsylvania

Robert Morris was the master financier of the Revolution and the early republic. A contemporary described him as "bold and enterprising of great mercantile knowledge, fertile in expedients and an able financier. Very popular in and out of the Congress . . . grown extremely rich." His firm profited handsomely from the sale of munitions to the Continental Army, but it did so fairly, and Morris acted within the ethical standards of the time. His labors and his willingness to secure loans with his own personal credit saved the Army and the government from bankruptcy on several occasions. Although never in uniform, he exhibited singular personal bravery when he stayed at his post in Philadelphia to continue his wartime duties after the British captured the city.

Based on his profound understanding of finances and public credit, he was a forceful proponent of a strong central government as the best course for a new nation blessed with great economic potential. Except for Roger Sherman, Morris was the only person to sign all three of the era's principal documents, the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution.

  1. ID: I1362
  2. Name: Robert MORRIS 1
  3. Sex: M
  4. Birth: 20 JAN 1734 in Liverpool, Lancashire, England
  5. Christening: 28 JAN 1735 St. George's Church, Castle St., Liverpool, England
  6. Death: 8 MAY 1806 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  7. Burial: Christ Church Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  8. Occupation: Signer of Declaration of Independence, Financier of American Revolution
  9. Note: Robert Morris 1734-1806 Representing Pennsylvania at the Continental Congress Born: January 20, 1734 in: Lancashire, England Education: Private & Apprenticeship (Merchant) Work: Delegate to the Continental Congress, 1775, Appointed Special Commissioner of Finance, 1776; Author of the plan for a National Bank, 1781; Financial Agent of the United States, 1781; Delegate to the Pennsylvania Legislature, ca. 1783; Delegate to the Constitutional Convention, 1787; United States Senator, 1789-95; Appointed Secretary of the Treasury, 1789. Died: May 9, 1806.

Robert Morris was a man of wealth and integrity in Philadelphia during the revolutionary period. though not a scholar or a soldier, he was to play an essential role in the success of the War against England, and in placing the new United States on a firm footing in the world. Morris, almost single handed, saw to the financing of the Revolutionary War, and the establishment of the Bank of the United States after.

Born in England in 1733, he came to the Chesapeake Bay in 1744 and attended school in Philadelphia. Young Robert, who seemed ill suited to formal education and too quick for his teacher in any case, was soon apprenticed to the counting room of Charles Willing at the age of sixteen. Two years later his employer died and Morris entered a partnership with the gentleman's son. In the succeeding thirty nine years that business flourished, and Robert Morris' wealth and reputation were secured. Being an importer, the business was hit hard by the Stamp Act and the colonial revolt against it. Morris and his partner choose the side of the colonials and Robert engaged in the movements against British rule.

Elected to the Continental Congress in 1775, he participated on many of the committees involved in raising capital and provisions for the Continental Army. Early in 1776, he was given a special commission by congress, with authority to negotiate bills of exchange for, and to solicit money by other means for the operation of the war. One of the most successful such devices were the lotteries. In late 1776, with the Continental Army in a state of severe deprivation because of a shortage of capital and the failure of several of the colonies in paying for the war, Morris loaned $10,000 of his own money to the government. This money provisioned the desperate troops a Valley Forge, who went on to win the Battle of Trenton and turn the course of the war. Throughout the war he personally underwrote the operations of privateers, ships that ran the British Blockades at great risk and thus brought needed supplies and capitol into the colonies.

In 1781 he devised a plan for a National Bank and submitted it to Congress. It was approved and became The Bank of North America, an institution that brought stability to the colonial economy, facilitated continued finance of the War effort, and would ultimately establish the credit of the United States with the nations of Europe. Morris was immediately appointed Financial Agent (Secretary of Treasury) of the United States, in order to direct the operation of the new bank.

Following the war, he served in the Pennsylvania Legislature. He was also a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in 1887, and thereafter an advocate for the new constitution. He was then sent as a Senator for Pennsylvania when that constitution was ratified. In 1789, President Gorge Washington appointed Morris Secretary of the Treasury, but he declined the office and suggested Alexander Hamilton instead. Morris completed his office as Senator and then retired from public service. He never recovered the wealth that he enjoyed before the revolution. What was left of his fortune was soon lost to land speculation in the western part of New York state. He died in 1806, in relative poverty, at the age of seventy three.

  1. Note: Robert Morris was a native of Lancashire, England, where he was born January, 1733-4, O.S. His father was a Liverpool merchant, who had for some years been extensively concerned in the American trade. While he was yet a boy, his father removed to America; shortly after which, he sent to England for his son, who arrived in this country at the age of thirteen years.

Young Morris was placed at school in Philadelphia, but his progress in learning appears to have been small, probably from the incompetence of his teacher, as he declared to his father one day, on the latter expressing his dissatisfaction at the little progress he made, "Sir," said he, "I have learned all that he can teach me."

During the time that young Morris was pursuing his education at Philadelphia, he unfortunately lost his father, in consequence of a wound received from the wad of a gun, which was discharged as a compliment, by the captain of a ship consigned to him, that had just arrived at Oxford, the place of his residence, on the eastern shores of the Chesapeake Bay, and was thus left an orphan, at the age of fifteen years. In conformity to the intentions of his parent, he was bred to commerce, and served a regular apprenticeship in the counting-house of the late Mr. Charles Willing, at that time one of the first merchants of Philadelphia.

A year or two after the expiration of the term for which he had engaged himself, he entered into partnership with Mr. Thomas Willing. This connection, which was formed in 1754, continued for the long period of thirty-nine years, not having been dissolved until 1793. Previously to the commencement of the American war, it was, without doubt, more extensively engaged in commerce than any other house in Philadelphia.

Of the events of his youth we know little. The fact just mentioned proves, that although early deprived of the benefit of parental counsel, he acted with fidelity, and gained the good will of a discerning master. The following anecdote will show his early activity in business, and anxiety to promote the interests of his friends. During the absence of Mr. Willing, at his country place, near Frankford, a vessel arrived at Philadelphia, either consigned to him, or that brought letters, giving intelligence of the sudden rise in the price of flour, at the port she left. Mr. Morris instantly engaged all that he could contract for, on account of Mr. Willing, who, on his return to the city next day, had to defend his young friend from the complaints of some merchants, that he had raised the price of flour. An appeal, however, from Mr. Willing, to their own probable line of conduct, in case of their having first received the news, silenced their complaints.

There were few men who viewed with greater indignation the encroachments of the British government upon the liberties of the people, or were more ready to resist them, than Mr. Morris. Nor did he hesitate to sacrifice his private interest for the public good, when occasion demanded it. This disposition was strikingly manifested in the year 1705, at which time he signed the non-importation agreement, entered into by the merchants of Philadelphia. The extensive mercantile concerns with England of the house of Mr. Morris, and the large importations of her manufactures and colonial produce by it, must have made this sacrifice considerable. The massacre at Lexington, April, 1775, seems to have decided the mind of Mr. Morris, as to the unalterable course which he would adopt in respect to England. The news of this measure reached Philadelphia four days after its occurrence. Robert Morris, with a large company, were at this time engaged at the city tavern, in the celebration, on George's day, of their patron saint. The news was received by the company with the greatest surprise. The tables, at which they were dining, were immediately deserted. A few only of the members, among whom was Mr. Morris, remained. To these, indeed to all, who had been present, it was evident that the die was cast_that the Lexington measure was an event which must lead to a final separation from the British government. Such an opinion Mr. Morris, at this time, expressed; he was willing it should take place, and from this time cordially entered into all the measures which seemed the most likely to effect the object. On the third of November, 1775, Mr. Morris was elected, by the legislature of Pennsylvania, a delegate to the second congress that met at Philadelphia.

A few weeks after he had taken his seat, he was added to the secret committee of that body, which had been formed by a resolve of the preceding congress, (1775,) and whose duty it was ' to contract for the importation of arms, ammunition, sulphur, and saltpetre, and to export produce on the public account, to pay for the same.

He was also appointed a member of the committee for fitting out a naval armament, and specially commissioned to negotiate bills of exchange for congress; to borrow money for the marine committee, and to manage the fiscal concerns of congress on other occasions. Independently of his enthusiastic zeal in the cause of his country, his capacity for business, and knowledge of the subjects committed to him, or his talents for managing pecuniary concerns, he was particularly fitted for such services; as the commercial credit he had established among his fellow-citizens probably stood higher than that of any other man in the community, and this he did not hesitate to avail himself of, whenever the public necessities required such an evidence of his patriotism.

A highly interesting illustration of this last remark, is furnished in the conduct of Mr. Morris in the December following the Declaration of Independence. For some time previous, the British army had been directing its course towards Philadelphia, from which congress had retired, leaving a committee, consisting of Mr. Morris, Mr. Clymer, and Mr. Walton, to transact all necessary continental business. While attending to the duties of their appointment, Mr. Morris received a letter from Gen. Washington, then with his army on the Delaware, opposite Trenton, in which letter he communicated to Mr. Morris his distressed state, in consequence of the want of money. The sum he needed was ten thousand dollars, which was essentially necessary to enable him to obtain such intelligence of the movement and position of the enemy, as would authorize him to act offensively. To Mr. Morris, Gen. Washington now looked, to assist him in raising the money. This letter he read with attention, but what could he do ? The citizens generally had left the city. He knew of no one, who possessed the required sum, or who would be willing to tend it. The evening approached, and he left his counting-room to return home. On the way, he accidentally overtook an honest Quaker, with whom he was acquainted. The Quaker inquired of him the news. Mr. Morris replied, that he had but little news of importance to communicate, but he had a subject which pressed with great weight upon his mind. He now informed the Quaker of the letter which he had received, the situation of General Washington and the immediate necessity of ten thousand dollars. "Sir," said Mr. Morris, "you must let me have it. My note and my honour will be your only security." The Quaker hesitated a moment, but at length replied, "Robert, thou shalt have it." The money was soon told, was transmitted to Washington, whom it enabled to accomplish his wishes, and to gain a signal victory over the Hessians at Trenton, thus animating the drooping spirits of patriotism, and checking in no small degree. the proud hopes and predictions of the enemy.

Another instance of patriotic liberality is recorded of Mr. Morris in 1779, or 1780. These were distressing years of the war. The army was alarmingly destitute of military stores, particularly of the essential article of lead. It was found necessary to melt down the weights of clocks and the spouts of houses; but, notwithstanding resort was had to every possible source, the army was often so destitute, that it could scarcely have fought a single battle. In this alarming state of things, General Washington wrote to several gentlemen, and among the rest to Judge Peters, at that time secretary to the board of war, stating his necessities, and urging an immediate exertion to supply the deficiency. This it seemed impossible to do. Mr. Peters, however, showed the letter of Washington to Mr. Morris. Fortunately, just at this juncture, a privateer belonging to the latter gentleman had arrived at the wharf, with ninety tons of lead. Half of this lead was immediately given by Mr. Morris, for the use of the army, and the other half was purchased by Mr. Peters of other gentlemen, who owned it, Mr. Morris becoming security for the payment of the debt. At a more advanced stage of the war, when pressing distress in the army had driven congress and the commander in chief almost to desperation, and a part of the troops to mutiny, he supplied the army with four or five thousand barrels of flour upon his own private credit; and on a promise to that effect, persuaded a member to withdraw an intended motion to sanction a procedure, which, although common in Europe, would have had a very injurious effect upon the cause of the country: this was no less than to authorize General Washington to seize all the provision that could be found, within a circle of twenty miles of his camp. While financier, his notes constituted, for large transactions, part of the circulating medium.

Many other similar instances occurred of this patriotic interposition of his own personal responsibility for supplies which could not otherwise have been obtained.

Allusion has been made above to the gloomy posture of affairs, during tile year 1780; at this time the wants of the army, particularly of provisions, were so great, as to threaten its dissolution.

This state of things, being communicated to Mr. Morris, he immediately proposed the establishment of a Bank, the principal object of which was, to supply the army with provisions. This plan becoming popular, ninety-six subscribers gave their bonds, on this occasion, by which they obliged themselves to pay, if it should become necessary, in gold and silver, the amounts annexed to their names, to fulfil the engagements of the Bank. By this means, the confidence of the public in the safety of the bank was confirmed. Mr. Morris headed the list with a subscription of 10,000l.; others followed to the amount of 300,000l. The directors were authorized to borrow money on the credit of the bank, and to grant special notes, bearing interest at six per cent. The credit thus given to the bank effected the object intended, and the institution was continued until the bank of North America went into operation in the succeeding year. It was probably on this occasion, that he purchased the four or five thousand barrels of flour, above mentioned, on his own credit, for the army, before the funds could be collected to pay for it.

We have not yet spoken of the congressional career of Mr. Morris, nor is it necessary to delay the reader by a minute account of the services which he rendered the country, in the national assembly. In this capacity, no one exhibited a more untiring zeal, none more cheerfully sacrificed ease and comfort than he did. He accomplished much by his active exertions, and perhaps not less by the confidence which he uniformly manifested of ultimate success. The display of such confidence powerfully tended to rouse the desponding, to fix the wavering, and confirm the brave.

In another way, Mr. Morris contributed to advance the patriotic cause. During the whole war, he maintained an extensive private correspondence with gentlemen in England, by means of which he often received information of importance to this country. "These letters he read to a few select mercantile friends, who regularly met in the insurance room at the merchant's coffee house, and through them the intelligence they contained was diffused among the citizens, and thus kept alive the spirit of opposition, made them acquainted with the gradual progress of hostile movements, and convinced them how little was to be expected from the government in respect to the alleviation of the oppression and hardships against which the colonies had for a long time most humbly, earnestly, and eloquently remonstrated.

This practice, which began previous to the suspension of the intercourse between the two countries, he continued during the war; and through the route of the continent, especially France and Holland, he received for a while the dispatches, which had formerly come directly from England." In the year 1781, Mr. Morris was appointed by congress, superintendent of finance, an office then for the first time established. This appointment was unanimous.

Indeed it is highly probable that no other man in the country would have been competent to the task of managing such great concerns as it involved, or possessed, like himself, the happy expedient of raising supplies, or deservedly enjoyed more, if equal, public confidence among his fellow-citizens, for punctuality in the fulfillment of his engagements.

Some idea may be formed of them, when it is known that he was required to examine into the state of the public debts, expenditures, and revenue; to digest and report plans for improving and regulating the finances; and for establishing order and economy in the expenditure of public money. To hint was likewise committed the disposition, management, and disbursement of all the loans received from the government of France, and various private persons in that country and Holland; the sums of money received from the different States; and of the public funds for every possible source of expense for the support of government, civil, military, and naval; the procuring supplies of every description for the army and navy; the entire management and direction of the public ships of war; the payment of all foreign debts; and the correspondence of our ministers at European courts, on subjects of finance. In short, the whole burden of the money operations of government was laid upon him. No man ever had more numerous concerns committed to his charge, and few to greater amount; and never did any one more faithfully discharge the various complicated trusts with greater dispatch, economy, or credit, than the subject of this sketch.

Never was an appointment more judicious than the appointment of Mr. Morris as financier of this country. At this time the treasury was more than two millions and a half in arrears, and the greater part of the debt was of such a nature that the payment could not be avoided, or even delayed, and therefore, Dr. Franklin, then our minister in France, was under the necessity of ordering back from Amsterdam monies which had been sent thither for the purpose of being shipped to America. If he had not taken this step, the bills of exchange drawn by order of congress must have been protested, and a vital stab given to the credit of the government in Europe. At home, the greatest public as well as private distress existed; public credit had gone to wreck, and the enemy built their most sanguine hopes of overcoming us, upon this circumstance; and the treasury was so much in arrears to the servants in the public offices, that many of them could not, without payment, perform their duties, but must have gone to jail for debts they had contracted to enable them to live. To so low an ebb was the public treasury reduced, that some of the members of the board of war declared to Mr. Morris that they had not the means of sending an express to the army. The pressing distress for provision among the troops, has already been mentioned. The paper bills of credit were sunk so low in value, as to require a burdensome mass of them to pay for an article of clothing. But the face of things soon began to change through the exertions of Mr. Morris. Without attempting to give the history of his wise and judicious management, it will be sufficient to say, in the language of an elegant historian of the American war, "certainly the Americans owed and still owe, as much acknowledgment to the financial operations of Robert Morris, as to the negotiations of Benjamin Franklin, or even the arms of George Washington." To Mr. Morris, also, the country was indebted for the establishment of the bank of North America, and for all the public benefits which resulted from that institution. By means of this, public credit was greatly revived; internal improvements were promoted, and a general spring was given to trade. "The circulating medium was greatly increased by the circulation of its notes, which being convertible at will into gold or silver, were universally received equal thereto, and commanded the most unbounded confidence. Hundreds availed themselves of the security afforded by the vaults of the bank, to deposit their cash, which, from the impossibility of investing it, had long been hid from the light; and the constant current of deposits in the course of trade, authorized the directors to increase their business and the amount of their issues, to a most unprecedented extent. The consequence of this was, a speedy and most perceptible change in the state of affairs, both public and private." We now come to an event, on account of the interest in which the name of Robert Morris should be remembered with gratitude by the American people, while republican America shall last. The campaign of 1781, respected the reduction of New-York; this was agreed upon by Washington and the French general, Count Rochambeau, and it was expected that tile French fleets, under De Barras and De Grasse, would co-operate. Judge the surprise when, on the arrival of the French fleet, it was announced to Washington, that the French admiral would not enter the bay of New-York, as was anticipated, but would enter and remain for a few weeks in the Chesapeake. This necessarily altered all the arrangements respecting the campaign. It was now obvious to Washington, that the reduction of New-York would be impracticable. In this state of things, it is hinted by Dr. Mease, in his biographical sketch of Mr. Morris, in the Edinburgh Encyclopedia, to which article we are greatly indebted, that Mr. Morris suggested to Washington the attack on Cornwallis, which put a finishing stroke to the war. Whether this be so or not, certain it is, that until the news was communicated to Washington, that the French fleet would not come into New-York bay, the project of a southern campaign had not been determined upon by the commander in chief. But when, at length, it was determined upon, whether at the suggestion of Robert Morris or not, we are unable to say, it is certain that he provided the funds which enabled General Washington to move his army towards the south, and which led to the decisive battle which terminated the war. The length to which this article is already extended, forbids any further account of the services of this distinguished patriot. "It adds not a little, however," says Dr. Mease, "to the merit of Mr. Morris, to be able to say, that notwithstanding his numerous engagements as a public or private character, their magnitude, and often perplexing nature, he was enabled to fulfil all the private duties which his high standing in society necessarily imposed upon him. His house was the seat of elegant, but unostentatious hospitality, and he regulated his domestic affairs with the same admirable order which had so long proverbially distinguished his counting-house, and the offices of the secret committee of congress, and that of finance. The happy manner in which he conducted his official and domestic concerns, was owing, in the first ease, to his own superior talents for dispatch and method in business, and, in the last, to the qualifications of his excellent partner, the sister of the esteemed bishop of Pennsylvania, Dr. White. An introduction to Mr. Morris was a matter of course, with all the strangers in good society, who, for half a century, visited Philadelphia, either on commercial, public, or private business; and it is not saying too much to assert, that during a certain period, it greatly depended upon him to do the honors of the city; and certainly no one was more qualified, or more willing to support them. Although active in the acquisition of wealth as a merchant, no one more freely parted with his gains, for public or private purposes of a meritorious nature, whether these were to support the credit of the government, to promote the objects of humanity, local improvement, the welfare of meritorious individuals in society, or a faithful commercial servant. The instances in which he shone on all these occasions were numerous. Some in reference to the three former particulars, have been mentioned, and more of his disinterested generosity in respect to the last could be given, were the present intended to be any thing more than a hasty sketch. The prime of his life was engaged in discharging the most important civil trusts to his country that could possibly fall to the lot of any man; and millions passed through his hands as a public officer, without the smallest breath of insinuation against his correctness, or of negligence amidst "the defaulters of unaccounted thousands," or the losses sustained by the reprehensible carelessness of national agents. From the foregoing short statement, we may have some idea of the nature and magnitude of the services rendered by Mr. Morris to the United States. It may be truly said, that few men acted a more conspicuous or useful part; and when we recollect, that it was by his exertions and talents, that the United States were so often relieved from their difficulties, at times of great depression and pecuniary distress, an estimate may be formed of the weight of obligations due to him from the people of the present day. The length to which this article is already extended, forbids any further particulars respecting this distinguished man. It may be proper to add, however, that the latter part of his life was rendered unhappy, by an unfortunate scheme of land speculation, in which he engaged, and by which his pecuniary affairs became exceedingly embarrassed; yet amidst his severest trials, he maintained a firmness and an independence of character, which in similar circumstances belong to but few. At length, through public labor, and private misfortune, his constitution was literally worn out, and like a shock of corn fully ripe, he came to his end on the 8th of May, 1806, in the seventy-third year of his age.

  1. Note: Robert Morris (1734-1806) Financier of the American Revolution, was born in or near Liverpool, England. At the age of thirteen he appeared in Maryland. He was put to school in Philadelphia. Shortly afterward he joined the Willings, shipping merchants, who were highly regarded in business and in the culture of Philadelphia. In 1754 he was made a member of the firm. He remained with Willing, Morris & Company, and its successors under other names, for thirty-nine years. His first appearance in public affairs occurred during the resistance to the Stamp Act, when he was one of those who signed the non-importation agreement of 1765. In October of that year he served on a committee of citizens appointed to force the collector of the stamp tax in Philadelphia to desist from performing the duties of his oflice. The following year he was warden of the Port of Philadelphia. Although, when the first Continental Congress met in Philadelphia in 1774, Morris was not yet committed to the "Patriot" cause, he took his place a few months later among its leading representatives. In 1775, he was made a member of the Council of Safety by the Assembly. In the absence of Franklin, he presided over the Council. In September, a secret committee of the Continental Congress contracted with Willing & Morris for the importation of arms and ammunition. Morris was elected in October to the last Pennsylvania Assembly held under the colonial charter; he was on the Committee of Correspondence, and in November 1775 was sent by the Assembly as a delegate to the Congress. He was appointed in 1776, to the Committee of Secret Correspondence. Morris voted against the Declaration of Independence in July 1776, thinking it premature, but he signed it in August. In November he was chosen to the first Pennsylvania Assembly under the new constitution. In the spring of 1777 the Committee of Secret Correspondence became the Committee of Foreign Affairs, and in July was reconstituted as the Committee of Commerce. Through all these changes Morris remained a member, and frequently served as its banker. There is no doubt that he made large profits in his capacity as middleman, but he likewise took great risks. In March of 1778 Morris signed the Articles of Confederation on behalf of Pennsylvania, and in August he was made chairman of the congressional committee on finance, serving until the expiration of his term in 1778. In 1779, Thomas Paine, through the press, attacked Morris for conducting private commercial enterprises while holding public office, and in Congress. Henry Laurens made charges of fraudulent transactions against the firm of Willing & Morris. A congressional committee investigated the charges and at Morris' request examined his books, reporting as their opinion that Robert Morris acted with fidelity and integrity and an honorable zeal for the happiness of his country. In 1780 he was again elected to the Assembly, where he served until 1781. In 1781, without a dissenting vote, Morris was chosen superintendent of finance (Financial dictator of the republic.) Convinced by experience that the Republic could not survive without a firm central government, he joined the Federalists. He sat in the convention at Philadelphia in 1787 which framed the Constitution of the United States. Robert Morris was sent to the United States Senate immediately upon the organization of the new government, serving 1789-95. Before his term had come to an end, he was involved in land speculations. The foundations of his fortune were shaken, because the value of his wilderness lands had fallen below their cost. A small creditor caused him to be arrested. He was taken to "Prune Street," the debtors' prison. In 1801, he was released under the federal bankruptcy law, and thereafter was supported by his wife's annuity, secured for her by Gouverneur Morris. He was by this time broken and ended his days in a small house. Morris' fall from eminence had been as spectacular as his rise.
  2. Note: Robert Morris Writings and Biography Morris was born at or near Liverpool, England, in 1734. When he reached 13 years of age, he emigrated to Maryland to join his father, a tobacco exporter at Oxford, Md. After brief schooling at Philadelphia, the youth obtained employment with Thomas and Charles Willing's well-known shipping-banking firm. In 1754 he became a partner and for almost four decades was one of the company's directors as well as an influential Philadelphia citizen. Wedding Mary White at the age of 35, he fathered five sons and two daughters. During the Stamp Act turmoil in 1765, Morris joined other merchants in protest, but not until the outbreak of hostilities a decade later did he fully commit himself to the Revolution. In 1775 the Continental Congress contracted with his firm to import arms and ammunition, and he was elected to the Pennsylvania council of safety (1775-76), the committee of correspondence, the provincial assembly (1775-76), the legislature (1776-78), and the Continental Congress (1775-78). In the last body, on July 1, 1776, he voted against independence, which he personally considered premature, but the next day he purposely absented himself to facilitate an affirmative ballot by his delegation. Morris, a key congressman, specialized in financial affairs and military procurement. Although he and his firm profited handsomely, had it not been for his assiduous labors the Continental Army would probably have been forced to demobilize. He worked closely with General Washington, wheedled money and supplies from the states, borrowed money in the face of overwhelming difficulties, and on occasion even obtained personal loans to further the war cause. Immediately following his congressional service, Morris sat for two more terms in the Pennsylvania legislature (1778-81). During this time, Thomas Paine and others attacked him for profiteering in Congress, which investigated his accounts and vindicated him. Nevertheless, his reputation suffered. Morris embarked on the most dramatic phase of his career by accepting the office of Superintendent of Finance (1781-84) under the Articles of Confederation. Congress, recognizing the perilous state of the nation's finances and its impotence to provide remedies, granted him dictatorial powers and acquiesced to his condition that he be allowed to continue his private commercial enterprises. He slashed all governmental and military expenditures, personally purchased army and navy supplies, tightened accounting procedures, prodded the states to fulfill quotas of money and supplies, and when necessary strained his personal credit by issuing notes over his own signature or borrowing from friends. To finance Washington's Yorktown campaign in 1781, in addition to the above techniques, Morris obtained a sizable loan from France. He used part of it, along with some of his own fortune, to organize the Bank of North America, chartered that December. The first government-incorporated bank in the United States, it aided war financing. Although Morris was reelected to the Pennsylvania legislature for 1785-86, his private ventures consumed most of his time. In the latter year, he attended the Annapolis Convention, and the following year the Constitutional Convention, where he sympathized with the Federalists but was, for a man of his eminence, strangely silent. Although in attendance at practically every meeting, he spoke only twice in debates and did not serve on any committees. In 1789, declining Washington's offer of appointment as the first Secretary of the Treasury, he took instead a U.S. Senate seat (1789-95). During the later years of his public life, Morris speculated wildly, often on overextended credit, in lands in the West and at the site of Washington, DC. To compound his difficulties, in 1794 he began constructing on Philadelphia's Chestnut Street a mansion designed by Maj. Pierre Charles L'Enfant. Not long thereafter, Morris attempted to escape creditors by retreating to The Hills, the country estate along the Schuylkill River on the edge of Philadelphia that he had acquired in 1770. Arrested at the behest of creditors in 1798 and forced to abandon completion of the mansion, thereafter known in its unfinished state as "Morris' Folly," Morris was thrown into the Philadelphia debtor's prison, where he was nevertheless well treated. By the time he was released in 1801, under a federal bankruptcy law, however, his property and fortune had vanished, his health had deteriorated, and his spirit had been broken. He lingered on in poverty and obscurity, living in a simple Philadelphia home on an annuity obtained for his wife by fellow-signer Gouverneur Morris. Robert Morris died in 1806 in his 73d year and was buried in the yard of Christ Church. Source: National Archives and Record Administration
  3. Note: 2 Robert Morris's son, "the present Robert Morris of Philadelphia," as Mr. Banning called him, was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and afterward the great financier whose credit saved Washington's Army in the darkest hours of the Revolution. Robert Morris, the younger, was born in Liverpool, England, January 31st, He emigrated to America in 1747, entered a mercantile house in Philadelphia and in 1754 became a member of the prosperous firm known as Willing, Morris & Co.* In the conflict with the mother-country, he was vice-president of the Pennsylvania Committee of Safety (1775-1776) and a member of the Continental Congress (1775-1778). At first he disapproved the Declaration of Independence, but he finally joined the other members in signing it on the 2nd of August. He retired from Congress in 1778, and was at once sent to the Legislature, serving in 1778--1779 and in 1780--1781. His greatest public service was the financing of the War of Independence. As chairman or member of various committees, he practically controlled the financial operation of Congress from 1776 to 1778, and when the board system was superseded in 1781 by single headed executive departments, he was chosen superintendent of finance. With the able co-operation of his assistant, Governeur Morris, who was in no way related to him, he filled this position with great efficiency during the trying years from l78l to l784. For the same period, he was also agent of marine, and hence head of the Navy Department. Through requisitions on the states and loans from the French, and in large measure through money advanced out of his own pocket or borrowed on his private credit, he furnished the means to transfer Washington's Army from Dobb's Ferry to Yorktown (1781). In 1781 he established in Philadelphia the Bank of North America, chartered first by Congress and later by Pennsylvania, the oldest financial institution in the United States, and the first which had even partially a national character. A confusion of public and private accounts, due primarily to the fact that his own credit was superior to that of the United .States, gave rise to charges of dishonesty, of which he was acquitted by a vote of Congress. He was a member of the Federal Convention in 1787, but took little part in its deliberations beyond making the speech which placed Washington in nomination for the presidency of the body. On the formation of the new government, he was offered, but declined, the secretaryship of the treasury, and urged Hamilton's appointment in his stead. As United States Senator, 1789-1795, he supported the Federalist policies and gave Hamilton considerable assistance in carrying out his financial plans, taking part, according to tradition in arranging a bargain by which certain Virginia representatives were induced to vote for funding the State debts in return for the location of the Federal capital on the Potomac. After the war he gradually disposed of his mercantile and banking interests and engaged extensively in western land speculation. At one time or another he owned wholly or in major-part nearly the entire western-half of New York State, two million acres in Georgia and about one million each in Pennsylvania, Virginia and South Carolina. The slow development of this property, the failure of a London bank in which he had funds invested, the erection of a palatial residence in Philadelphia, and the dishonesty of one of his partners, finally drove him into bankruptcy, and he was confined in a debtor's prison for more than three years (1798-1801). He died in Philadelphia on the 7th of May, 1806. Such was the tragic end of one of America's leading patriots, whose father's mortal remains have reposed peacefully in White Marsh Churchyard for nearly 200 years. And so the name of this ancient church, thus linked with the name of one of its earliest and most famous parishioners, passes down into the history of the Eastern Shore of Maryland, the appreciation and preservation of which is so dear to the members of this Society. *The wife of Robert Morris, of Philadelphia, was Mary, daughter of Thomas White, who came to this country from London in early life and settled on the Eastern Shore of Marylond. White had a son and a daughter. The former was William, who became the first Protestant Episcopal Bishop of Pennsylvania and the second of that church in the United States. The other became Mrs. Robert Morris, who has been described as "elegant, accomplished and rich and well qualified to carry the bliss of connubial life to its highest perfection."
  4. Change Date: 5 OCT 2003

Robert Morris signed the Declaration of Independence. You will find his signature just to the right of John Hancock's. He was also the first Secretary of Treasury of the United States. Without him it is doubtful the United States would have happened. He was very wealthy and used it all to finance the Revolutionary War. He wound up broke, spent some time in debtors prison, and died in poverty.

Robert Morris was financier of the revolution.

Birth: Jan. 20, 1734 Death: May 8, 1806

Declaration of Independence Signer, Continental Congressman, US Senator, United States Constitution Singer. Served as a Delegate from PA in the Continental Congress from 1775 to 1778. Signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Elected to the US Senate from PA, serving from 1789 to 1795. One of the richest men in America at the time of the Rebellion; known as the "Financier of the Revolution". His involvement in unsuccessful land speculation caused him to be imprisoned from debt from 1798 to 1801. His son Thomas Morris served as a Congressman from New York.

Family links:

 Robert Morris (1711 - 1750)
 Mary White Morris (1749 - 1827)*


  • William White Morris (1772 - 1798)*
  • Hester Morris Marshall (1774 - 1816)*
  • Henry Morris (1784 - 1842)*


 Margaret Morris Cox (1732 - 1799)*
 Robert Morris (1734 - 1806)
  • Calculated relationship


  • Christ Episcopal Church and Churchyard
  • Philadelphia
  • Philadelphia County
  • Pennsylvania, USA

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@R750636421@ U.S., Sons of the American Revolution Membership Applications, 1889-1970 Operations, Inc. 1,2204::0


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@R750636421@ Ancestry Family Trees Online publication - Provo, UT, USA: Original data: Family Tree files submitted by Ancestry members.


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Born: January 20, 1734

Birthplace: Lancashire, England

Education: Private and Apprenticeship (Merchant)

Work: Delegate to the Continental Congress, 1775, Appointed Special Commissioner of Finance, 1776; Author of the plan for a National Bank, 1781; Financial Agent of the United States, 1781; Delegate to the Pennsylvania Legislature, ca. 1783; Delegate to the Constitutional Convention, 1787; United States Senator, 1789-95; Appointed Secretary of the Treasury, 1789.

Died: May 9, 1806

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Robert Morris, Jr., Signer of the "Declaration of Independence"'s Timeline

January 20, 1734
Liverpool, Lancashire, England
December 19, 1769
Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, Colonial America
February 26, 1771
Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, United States
August 9, 1772
Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, Colonial America
July 30, 1774
Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Province of Pennsylvania