Lewis Morris

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For other people named Lewis Morris, see Lewis Morris (disambiguation).
Lewis Morris
Lewis Morris painting.jpg
Morris painted by John Wollaston (c. 1750)
Personal details
Born April 8, 1726
Morrisania, New York
Died January 22, 1798(1798-01-22) (aged 71)
Morrisania, New York
Spouse(s) Mary Walton (m. 1749)
Children 10, including Richard
Parents Lewis Morris
Katrintje Staats
Relatives Staats Long Morris (brother)
Gouverneur Morris (half-brother)
Robert Hunter Morris (uncle)
Lewis Morris (grandfather)
John Rutherfurd (son-in-law)
Alma mater Yale College
Known for Signer of the Declaration of Independence

Lewis Morris (April 8, 1726 – January 22, 1798) was an American landowner and developer from Morrisania, New York. He signed the U.S. Declaration of Independence as a delegate to the Continental Congress from New York.[1]

Early life[edit]

Lewis Morris was born on April 8, 1726 at his family's Morrisania estate, in what was then the Province of New York. He was the third Lewis Morris in the Morris family. He was the son of Lewis Morris (1698–1762) and Katrintje or Catherine Staats. After his mother died, his father married Sarah Gouverneur (1714–1786).[2] He graduated from Yale College in 1746,[1] and upon his father's death in 1762, he inherited the bulk of the estate.

Morris' siblings included Staats Long Morris (1728–1800), Richard Morris (1730–1810), his half-brother was Gouverneur Morris (1752–1816), his uncle was Robert Hunter Morris (1700–1764), the Governor of Pennsylvania. His cousin by marriage was William Paterson (1745–1806), the Governor of New Jersey and father-in-law of Stephen Van Rensselaer, the Lt. Governor of New York, who was the brother of Philip Schuyler Van Rensselaer, Mayor of Albany, New York. Anthony Walton White (1750–1803), a Continental General, was his cousin through Morris' aunt, Elizabeth Morris (1712–c.1784).

Family history[edit]

His great-grandfather, Richard Morris (died 1672), had immigrated to New York through Barbados after being part of Oliver Cromwell's army in the English Civil War of 1648. He purchased the first tract of land in the Bronx that became the basis for the Morrisania manor. When Richard and his young wife died, they left behind an infant son, the also Lewis Morris (1671–1746). Richard's brother, Colonel Lewis Morris, also of Barbados, came to Morrisania to help manage the estate formerly belonging to his late-brother and now his infant nephew.

After Col. Morris and his wife's death, who were childless, Lewis Morris (b. 1671), inherited the estate, expanded it and patented the estate. He married a woman named Isabella and went on to serve as the 8th Colonial Governor of New Jersey.[3]


As a prominent land owner in colonial New York, Lewis was appointed as a judge of the Admiralty Court for the province in 1760. In 1769, he was elected to the Colonial Assembly. In 1774, as the Revolution drew near, he resigned from the Admiralty Court.[1]

American Revolution[edit]

When active revolution began, he was a member of the New York Provincial Congress (revolutionary government) from 1775 until 1777. That body, in turn, sent Morris to the Continental Congress for those same years.

In Congress, he was an active supporter of independence, and signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776. When warned by his half-brother, Gouverneur Morris, [4][citation needed] of the consequences that would follow his signing of the rebellious document, Morris stated, "Damn the consequences. Give me the pen."

Lewis returned to New York in 1777, and was a member of the New York State Senate from 1777 to 1781 and again from 1783 to 1790.


When the New York convention met to ratify the U.S. Constitution in 1788, he was one of the delegates. Morris was a Federalist presidential elector in 1796, and cast his votes for John Adams and Thomas Pinckney.

and was a signer of the Declaration of Independence; deputy to the state provincial congress in 1776 and 1777; county judge of Westchester County in 1777; member of the committee on detection of conspiracies in 1777; served in the state senate 1777-1781 and 1784-1788, and was a member of the council of appointment in 1786; member of the first board of regents of the University of New York and served from 1784 until his death; delegate to the state convention which adopted the Federal Constitution in 1788.[1]

In 1784, Morris was elected an honorary member of the New York Society of the Cincinnati.

Morris had to rebuild the family estate after the Revolution, since it had been looted and burned by the British when they occupied New York. In 1790, he offered the land, now part of the South Bronx neighborhood of Morrisania as the site of the U.S. capital. He died on the estate, and is buried in the family vault beneath St. Ann's Church in the Bronx.[5]

Personal life[edit]

Coat of Arms of Gouverneur Morris

On September 24, 1749, Lewis married Mary Walton (May 14, 1727 – March 11, 1794), a member of a historic merchant family. [1] Lewis and Mary were the parents of 10 children;

  • Catherine Morris (1751–1835)
  • Mary Morris (1752–1776)
  • Col. Lewis V. Morris (1754–1824), who married Ann B. Elliott, sister-in-law of Congressman Daniel Huger.[6]
  • Gen. Jacob Morris (1755–1844)
  • Sarah Morris (born 1757), who died young
  • Lt. William Walton Morris (1760–1832)
  • Helena Magdalena Morris (1762–1840), who married John Rutherfurd (1760–1840), a Senator from New Jersey
  • James Morris (1764–1827)
  • Capt. Staats Morris (1765–1826), who married Everarda van Braam Houckgeest (1765–1816), the daughter of Andreas van Braam Houckgeest and Baroness Catharina C.G. van Reeds van Oudtshoorn.[7]
  • Capt. Richard Valentine Morris (1768–1815)

His eldest three sons served during the Revolutionary war, and had distinguished military careers.


Lewis and Isabella had several children including Lewis Morris, Jr. who married both Tryntje Staats and Sarah Gouverneur. Lewis Jr. had seven children by his two wives including Lewis the third, the subject of this entry. Lewis the third's siblings and half-siblings were named Staats Long Morris, Richard Morris, Mary Lawrence, Gouverneur Morris, Isabella and Catherine.

He was an ancestor of the Louisiana publisher Sarah Hudson-Pierce.[8]

In popular culture[edit]

Lewis Morris is portrayed by Ronald Kross in the 1969 Broadway musical 1776 and by Howard Caine in the 1972 film. Although Morris was chairman of the New York delegation to the Second Continental Congress, he abstained ("courteously") on every vote, claiming that the New York Provincial Congress never gave Morris explicit instructions on anything. However, when George Washington noted in a dispatch that Morris's estates were destroyed by the British, but his family was taken to safety in Connecticut, Morris abandons his lack of instructions and moves to sign the Declaration anyway.


  1. ^ a b c d "MORRIS, Lewis - Biographical Information". bioguide.congress.gov. Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved 19 January 2017. 
  2. ^ "Gouverneur Morris [1752–1816]". New Netherlands Institute. Retrieved 17 June 2014. 
  3. ^ Stellhorn, Paul A., and Birkner, Michael J. "Lewis Morris" in The Governors of New Jersey 1664–1974: Biographical Essays. (Trenton, New Jersey: New Jersey Historical Commission, 1982), 54–58. Retrieved 29 April 2013.
  4. ^ Richard Brookhiser, Gentleman Revolutionary: Gouverneur Morris, the Rake Who Wrote the Constitution. New York: Free Press, 2003, p. xiv.
  5. ^ Elizabeth Spencer-Ralph and Gloria McDarrah (October 1979). "National Register of Historic Places Registration: St. Ann's Church Complex". New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Retrieved 2011-01-12. 
  6. ^ Huger is the great-grandfather-in law of Arthur Middleton Manigault.
  7. ^ Their offspring took the surname "Van Braam Morris" and they live in the Netherlands.
  8. ^ Genealogy of Lewis Morris, Sr. (born 1575)

External links[edit]