Robert Hunter Morris

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For other people named Robert Morris, see Robert Morris (disambiguation).
Robert Hunter Morris
Deputy Governor of Pennsylvania
In office
Preceded by James Hamilton
Succeeded by William Denny
Member of the New Jersey Provincial Council for the Eastern Division
In office
April 1738 – 27 January 1764 His death.
Succeeded by James Parker
Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court
In office
March 17, 1739 – 27 January 1764 His death.
Preceded by Robert Lettis Hooper
Succeeded by Charles Reade
Personal details
Born c1700
Trenton, New Jersey
Died 27 January 1764
Shrewsbury, New Jersey
Nationality American
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Stogdell
Children Mary
Religion Church of England

Robert Hunter Morris (1700 in Trenton, New Jersey – 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.

Early life and education[edit]

He was the second son of the future Governor of New Jersey Lewis Morris and Isabella Graham Morris and named after 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.

Political career[edit]

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 Lettis Hooper, whose term was determined to run "through the royal pleasure". His term was marked by increased punctuality and efficiency. Following a long trip to England in 1749 he was made Deputy Governor of Pennsylvania in 1754 and elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1755 after his return. [1]

He served as Deputy Governor from 1754 to 1756, during the French and Indian War. (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. 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.[2] He was the uncle of Congressman Lewis Morris of New York.

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 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.[3]

In 1756 Morris resigned his commission as Chief Justice (which was not accepted) and made another long trip to England. Wiliam Aynsley was made Chief Justice in his absence. When Morris returned in 1760 he claimed he was still Chief Justice on the grounds that his resignation had never been formally accepted. As Aynsley had in the meanwhile died and Morris was the best person available to fill the post he was reinstated and served in that capacity until his own death in 1764. [4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Fellow Details". Royal Society. Retrieved 21 October 2015. 
  2. ^ Silver, Peter (2008). Our Savage Neighbors. W.W. Norton & Company. p. 161. ISBN 978-0-393-06248-9. 
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ Bell, Whitfield. Patriot-improvers: 1743-1768. p. 100. 

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