Morgan Lewis (governor)

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Morgan Lewis
Gubernatorial portrait of Morgan Lewis.
3rd Governor of New York
In office
July 1, 1804 – June 30, 1807
Lieutenant John Broome
Preceded by George Clinton
Succeeded by Daniel D. Tompkins
Personal details
Born (1754-10-16)October 16, 1754
New York City, New York
Died April 7, 1844(1844-04-07) (aged 89)
New York City
Political party Democratic-Republican
Spouse(s) Gertrude Livingston

Morgan Lewis (October 16, 1754 – April 7, 1844) was an American lawyer, politician and military commander of Welsh descent, he was the second son of Francis Lewis, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. He grew up in Elizabethtown, N.J.[1] where he decided to dedicate himself to the Ministry.[2] However based on the advice of his father he graduated from Princeton (then the College of New Jersey) in 1773 and began to study law. He was reading law alongside John Jay[3] His studies were interrupted by military service during the American Revolutionary War. He was later admitted to the bar in 1783.[4] From September 1, 1776 to the end of the war he was a colonel and the Quartermaster General for the Northern Department. In 1779 he married Gertrude Livingston (1757–1833), the daughter of Robert R. Livingston. They lived in Rhinebeck[disambiguation needed] and then in Hyde Park[disambiguation needed]. In1790, his Rhinebeck household was served by eight slaves.[5] He had one daughter Margret.[6]

In 1774 he joined the American Revolutionary war as a volunteer in the continental army. Lewis was then made a Captain of a regiment of the New York militia. Once the 2nd New York militia regiment was organised he was promoted to the rank of Major.[7] He was then appointed chief-of-staff to General Horatio Gates, with the rank of colonel, and accompanied him into Canada, and soon after congress appointed him quartermaster-general of the Northern army. He was prominent throughout the campaign that ended with the surrender of Burgoyne at Saratoga,[8] and in 1775 he planned and executed the night attack on Stone Arabia, and was in command at the battle of Crown Point, where he was accompanied by Governor Gorge Clinton.

After the Revolution, Lewis completed his legal studies while living in Albany.While in Albany, he boarded at the riverside home of James Bloodgood. In 1779, the tax list showed him living there with personal property valued at $2,000 - one of the highest assessments in the city. Later, he qualified for a "bounty right" as a member of the city regiment of the Albany County Militia. During that time, he acquired some Albany property.[9] He was then elected to the New York State Assembly(1789 and 1792) and the New York State Senate(1811–14,). He was New York State Attorney General(December 24, 1791 – October 28, 1801) and later Justice and Chief Justice(October 28, 1801[10]) of the Supreme Court of New York.[11]

He served as governor of New York from 1804 to 1807, defeating Vice President Aaron Burr in the race to succeed future Vice President George Clinton as governor. as part of his run for office he was largely responsible for splitting the Republican Party with his inadequate combination of Lewisites (labeled Quids by the Clintonians) and Federalists.[12] During his tenure, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point was established; the state's militia system was restructured; and educational improvements were sanctioned.[13] On April 30, 1807, he was defeated in his run for re-election by Daniel D. Tompkins, also a future vice president. Tompkins received 35,074 votes, while Morgan Lewis received 30,989 votes. He then returned home to Staatsburg, Duchess county, N.Y where he turned his attention to agriculture. Having given up the practice of law, Lewis established a cloth factory and for several years devoted himself to manufacturing. The failure of a mercantile house to which his goods were assigned caused him to discontinue the business.[14]

Prior to the War of 1812 Lewis declined the office of secretary of war under president Madison. Instead he resumed his duties as Quartermaster General and served in western New York. He was commissioned as a brigadier general on April 3, 1812. And promoted to major general on March 2, 1813 as part of his service on the Niagara Frontier.[15] He commanded the American forces at the Battle of Fort George. Although the British position was captured, Lewis ordered Colonel Winfield Scott to break off the pursuit of the defeated British troops. But for Lewis's over-caution, Scott might have been able to capture Major-General John Vincent's entire division and greatly weaken the British defense of the Niagara Peninsula. Later, Lewis was appointed as commander of upstate New York. He procured the release of the American prisoners in Canada, advancing from his private fortune the money for its accomplishment, and also rewarding his own tenants who had served in or sent sons to the war, by allowing them free rent for the time they served in the army.[16] After the conclusion of the war, Lewis was discharged from the Army on June 15, 1815.

Lewis was a presidential elector in 1828.

Lewis was a Freemason, and served as Grand Master in the Grand Lodge of New York from 1830-1843.

From 1832 to 1835 he was the President of the Historical Society of New York.

Lewis was an original member of the New York Society of the Cincinnati and served as the Society's President General from 1839 - 1844.

Lewis helped to found New York University in New York City.

Lewis County, New York,[17] the Town and Village of Lewiston, New York,[18] and the Town of Lewis in Essex County, New York have been named to honor him.

He died in New York City April 7, 1844


  1. ^ Davis, Roderick A. "LEWIS, Morgan [1754-1844] -- American statesman". Ancestry. com. Retrieved 2015-05-18. 
  2. ^ "Morgan Lewis". Retrieved 2015-05-25. 
  3. ^ Roper, Donald M. "Lewis, Morgan (b New York City, 16 Oct 1754; d New York City, 7 Apr 1844). Governor.". New York Hall of Governors. Retrieved 2015-05-18. 
  4. ^ Raimo, Sobel, Robert, and John. "Morgan Lewis". Retrieved 2015-05-25. 
  5. ^ Belinsky, Stefan. "Morgan Lewis". Retrieved 2015-05-24. 
  6. ^ "Morgan Lewis". Retrieved 2015-05-25. 
  7. ^ "LEWIS, Morgan [1754-1844] -- American statesman". Retrieved 2015-05-19. 
  8. ^ "Morgan Lewis |". Retrieved 2015-05-25. 
  9. ^ "Morgan Lewis". Retrieved 2015-05-25. 
  10. ^ "Brigadier General Morgan Lewis - Quartermaster General 1812-1813". Retrieved 2015-05-25. 
  11. ^ "LEWIS, Morgan [1754-1844] -- American statesman". Retrieved 2015-05-19. 
  12. ^ "Morgan Lewis |". Retrieved 2015-05-25. 
  13. ^ Raimo, Sobel, Robert, and John. "Morgan Lewis". Retrieved 2015-05-25. 
  14. ^ "LEWIS, Morgan [1754-1844] -- American statesman". Retrieved 2015-05-25. 
  15. ^ "Brigadier General Morgan Lewis - Quartermaster General 1812-1813". Retrieved 2015-05-25. 
  16. ^ "LEWIS, Morgan [1754-1844] -- American statesman". Retrieved 2015-05-25. 
  17. ^ Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 185. 
  18. ^ Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 186. 

External links[edit]

  • [1] Morgan Lewis
  • [2] Morgan Lewis
  • [3] Morgan Lewis picture and gravesite
  • [4] New York history, election result 1807
Legal offices
Preceded by
Aaron Burr
New York Attorney General
Succeeded by
Nathaniel Lawrence
Political offices
Preceded by
George Clinton
Governor of New York
Succeeded by
Daniel D. Tompkins
Academic offices
Preceded by
George Clinton
Chancellor of the University of the State of New York
Succeeded by
Daniel D. Tompkins
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Isaac Tichenor
Oldest living United States governor
December 11, 1838 – April 7, 1844
Succeeded by
William Plumer
Preceded by
Samuel Ashe
Oldest United States governor ever
August 29, 1842 – December 16, 1848
Succeeded by
William Plumer