Robert Morris (financier)

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Founding Fathers
Robert Morris (financier)
State Pennsylvania
Religion Christian- Episcopalian [1]
Founding Documents Declaration of Independence,
United States Constitution

Robert Morris (January 20, 1734 – May 9, 1806) is a founding father of America, who started The Bank of North America. Sometimes referred to as the financier of the war, he heavily financed the American Revolution[2][3] along with Haym Salomon. He was a Pennsylvania delegate to the Continental Congress who helped draft the Model Treaty and signed the Declaration of Independence as well as the Constitution. Also, appointed "Financial Agent", the de facto first Secretary of the Treasury and was a United States Senator.

Early life

Robert Morris was born in Liverpool, England. At age 13, he sailed to America to join his father Robert Morris, Sr. in the exportation of tobacco from Chesapeake Bay, Maryland.[4] Robert was sent to Philadelphia for school and to work for the wealthy merchant Charles Willing. He made steady progress and grew to assume much responsibility. Charles would die leaving his son the business and his son partnered with Morris.

By the start of the American Revolution, the company Willing Morris & Co became one of the largest and most prosperous among the commercial merchants in Philadelphia. Willing Morris & Co primarily facilitated shipping to an from other ports, carrying goods such as flour and sugar to and from the Caribbean and ports of Britain and Europe. They also had a large share of transport for Indentured servants, people looking for a better life away from the tyranny of Europe's monarchs.[5] Like many merchant organizations in their day, Willing Morris & Co did have some involvement in shipping slaves. However, the venture proved to be unprofitable.

In 1769, Robert married the rich and accomplished twenty-year old Mary White.

American Revolution

Morris was elected to the Second Continental Congress in 1775 and was an outspoken opponent to British policies such as the Stamp Act. July 1, 1776 he would vote against the Declaration of Independence hoping for a peaceable solution saying, "it was an improper time." Soon thereafter, Morris would sign the Declaration saying, "I am not one of those politicians that run testy when my own plans are not adopted. I think it is the duty of a good citizen to follow when he cannot lead." His support would be crucial for young America.

When hostilities began, he was a member of the committee of ways and means. Morris personal supplied General Nathanael Greene with munitions. In 1780, he would raise $1.4 million to assist General Washington that would result in the capture of Yorktown. In 1781, he was unanimously elected superintendent of finance that oversaw the war effort. When necessary, he would use his personal credit by issuing notes over his own signature or borrowing from friends. In 1781, the United States was $2.5 million in debt. Morris organized The Bank of North America. It would be the first financial institution chartered by the United States. Ultimately, he established the credit of the United States with the nations of Europe.


After the war, Robert Morris would represent the state of Pennsylvania at the Constitutional Convention. Other members of the Pennsylvania delegation to the Convention were George Clymer, Thomas Fitzsimons, Benjamin Franklin, Jared Ingersoll, Thomas Mifflin, Gouverneur Morris, and James Wilson.

From 1789 to 1795 he served as a member of the first U. S. Senate from Pennsylvania. President George Washington officially appointed Morris Secretary of the Treasury. Morris declined and recommended Alexander Hamilton.

North American Land Company

On Mr Morris's retirement from public life, he began to speculate largely in unimproved lands in all sections of the country, and in February, 1795, organized with John Nicholson and James Greenleaf, the North American Land Company. Through the dishonesty and rascality of Green leaf, finally caused his ruin, and burdened the closing years of his life with utter poverty. The government that he had carried on his own shoulders through adversity to prosperity, allowed him to remain from the 16th of February 1798, until the 26th of August 1801, a period of three years six months and ten days as an inmate of Prune Street Debtor's Prison.[6]

President John Adams refused to issue a pardon to Morris, so the Congress ended up passing the Bankruptcy Act of 1800, which resulted in Morris' release from jail.[7]

Death and Legacy

Morris lost his vast fortune on land speculation and would live in poverty the remainder of his life. He had sought refuge from his creditors but was eventually arrested and imprisoned. After his release, Mrs. Morris secured a home and the next five years he lived in retirement. On May 8, 1806 Robert Morris died at the age of seventy-two.

In the United States Capitol Building, The Apotheosis of Washington depicts Morris receiving money from Mercury.[8]

His son Thomas Morris was a member of the United States House of Representatives representing the State of New York.

See also


External links