Lewis Morris

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Founding Fathers
Lewis Morris
State New York
Religion Christian- Episcopalian [1]
Founding Documents Declaration of Independence

Lewis Morris (April 8, 1726 – January 22, 1798) is a founding father of America, he was the first Board of Regents member for the University of the State of New York, a member of the New York legislature, a county judge, also serving as a brigadier-general in the New York militia and the New York delegate to the Continental Congress that signed the Declaration of Independence.

This Lewis Morris is not to be confused with "Governor" Lewis Morris, after whom the historic city of Morristown, New Jersey is named, as is the Westin "Governor Morris" hotel which is located there. Neither this Lewis Morris nor "Governor Morris" are to be confused with Gouverneur Morris, who yet another entirely different person.

Early life

Lewis Morris was the third Lewis in the Morris family. He was born at Morrisania in Westchester (now Bronx) County, New York, to Lewis and Katrintje "Catherine" Morris.[2] His was a family of wealth and politics. His grandfather, also named Lewis, was the eighth royal governor of Colonial New Jersey. Morris graduated from Yale College in 1746 and married the wealthy Mary Walton, raising 10 children. Morris showed little interest in politics until 1769 when he won a seat in the provincial assembly opposing taxation of the colonies.[3]

He had several prominent family members including some through marriage, such as Governor William Paterson,[4] his brother Staats Long Morris,[5], and Gouverneur Morris. His father Lewis Sr. sat as a judge on the Admiralty Court for New York, from 1760 to 1762.[6][7]

American Revolution

In 1775, Morris took his elected seat to the Second Continental Congress. He was placed on two committees, one chaired by General Washington for the war effort and defense of New York, and the other for Indian affairs. The task for Morris would be to convince the Indians to side with the colonists and not the British.

At the time Lewis Morris signed the Declaration of Independence, a large armada of British ships had stationed themselves within canon-fire of his estate. The British army had just landed miles away. Morris would remark

Damn the consequences, give me the pen.

The British burnt down 1000 acres of his waterfront woodlands, ransacked his house, drove away his family into hiding, his livestock and extensive possessions pillaged. The Morris family suffered severely for the next six years until the evacuation of New York City. Morris chose independence for America and in the process gave up his vast wealth and his way of life.

Later life

In 1777, he was succeeded in congress by his brother, Gouverneur Morris. Later served as a judge in Worcester and served intermittently as a member of the upper house of the new legislature. In the 1796 election he was an elector and cast his votes for the Federalist ticket of John Adams and Thomas Pinckney.[8]

Lewis spent several years working to rebuild his estate and farm destroyed in the revolution. Also, he would serve as the first Board of Regents for the University of New York until he died at age 72.[9]