Robert Hunter Morris

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For other people named Robert Morris, see Robert Morris (disambiguation).

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Robert Hunter Morris, born 1700 in Trenton, New Jersey, died 27 January 1764 in Shrewsbury, New Jersey, was a prominent governmental figure in Colonial Pennsylvania, serving as governor of Pennsylvania and Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court.

He was the second son of the future Governor of New Jersey Lewis Morris and Isabella Graham Morris, namesake of his father's friend the future colonial governor Robert Hunter. He received what was described at the time as a "liberal education", and received additional training from his father in politics.

When his father was named Governor of New Jersey in 1738, his son's name appeared on his list of councilors. Less than a year later, Governor Morris named Robert the Chief Justice of the provincial Supreme Court. His commission was set to run "during good behavior of same", which differed from that of his predecessor, Robert L. Hooper, whose terms was determined to run "through the royal pleasure". His term was marked by increased punctuality and efficiency.

He served as deputy governor* of Pennsylvania from 1754 to 1756, during the French and Indian War, when he often clashed with the Assembly over proposals to emit paper money to fund the war. In the spring of 1756 Morris announced volunteer scalping parties. These scalping parties were "the only way to clear our Frontier of Savages" according to Morris's councilor James Hamilton.[1] He was the uncle of Congressman Lewis Morris of New York.

  • Early Governors of Pennsylvania were referred to as "deputy governors" because Thomas Penn, who resided in England, was the official "Governor" as well as one of the proprietors of the province along with his brother Richard Penn.

During the second half of 1755 the contest between the proprietors of the colony of Pennsylvania (the Penn family) and the Pennsylvania Assembly became a duel between Morris and Benjamin Franklin. The main point of contention was the adamant refusal of the Penns to countenance any tax upon their lands in Pennsylvania, even for provincial defense. During the summer and autumn of 1755, while the frontier burned and the settlers fled for their lives from attacks by French friendly Indians, the proprietors and the Assembly locked in legislative stalemate. Morris defended the proprietors and Franklin spoke for the people of Pennsylvania.

In late July of 1755 the Assembly authorized the expenditure of 50,000 pounds for provincial defense following the defeat of Major General Edward Braddock by the French and Indian soldiers near Fort Duquesne in western Pennsylvania. To raise the money, the Assembly approved a property tax, applicable to all real and personal property within the province. Morris vetoed the tax bill with suggestions for amendment that would exempt the proprietary estates.

Franklin drafted the Assembly's response, the gist of which was that taxing the proprietary estates, along with all the other estates in the province, was "perfectly equitable and just." Eventually, Morris admitted that the terms of his commission prohibited his accepting any measure that taxed the proprietary estates. This prompted Franklin to bypass Morris and take on the proprietors themselves, which led to Franklin's removal to London in 1757 to argue the Assembly's side in the dispute with the proprietors.[2]

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References[edit]

  1. ^ Silver, Peter (2008). Our Savage Neighbors. W.W. Norton & Company. p. 161. ISBN 978-0-393-06248-9. 
  2. ^ Brands, H. W. (2000)"The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin" First Anchor Books Edition, March 2002. ISBN# 0-385-49540-4.

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