Roger Morris (British Army officer)
Life and career
On 13 September 1745, he obtained a commission in the 48th Regiment of Foot. The regiment served at Falkirk and Culloden, and in Flanders. Morris came to America with General Edward Braddock and served as his aide-de-camp. He was wounded during Braddock's Defeat near Fort Duquesne in western Pennsylvania.
Transferred to the 35th Regiment of Foot in 1758, Morris served in Fort Frederick in Nova Scotia; he led the Cape Sable Campaign against the Acadians. Morris joined the Louisbourg Grenadiers, a special corps made up of the Grenadiers of the 22nd, 40th and 45th Regiments, during General James Wolfe's invasion of French Quebec where he participated in the Battle of the Plains of Abraham on 13 September 1759. During the siege of Louisbourg, Grenadiers suffered a loss of fifty-five killed and wounded. In May 1760, Morris was promoted to lieutenant-colonel of the 47th Regiment of Foot shortly after the Battle of Sainte-Foy, and participated in General Jeffery Amherst's assault and capture of Montreal on 8 September 1760 ending French rule in North America.
Morris retired from the British army in 1764 and settled in New York City on the southeast corner of Whitehall and Stone streets with his American wife, Mary Philipse, nicknamed Charming Polly, whom he had married in 1758. Eldest daughter of Frederick Philipse, second Lord of the Philipsburg Manor, she had been a possible love interest of George Washington, and owned a one-third share of the Philipse Patent, a vast landed estate on the Hudson River in Putnam County, New York including Lake Mahopac.[note 1]
Before wedding, a prenuptial agreement was composed that shared a life lease of the estate between husband and wife, transferred after their death to children. The Morrises became pillars of the local establishment since Roger Morris was appointed on the Governor’s Council of the Province of New York. The following year after his marriage, Morris had a large country estate named Mount Morris (today the Morris-Jumel Mansion) built in northern Manhattan between the Hudson and Harlem rivers in what is now the Washington Heights neighborhood. Situated on Coogan's Bluff, its vista included lower Manhattan, the Hudson River and its Palisades, the Bronx, Westchester, the Long Island Sound and the Harlem River.
Morris and his family lived in Mount Morris for ten years, from 1765 until 1775, when the American Revolution began. Being a Loyalist, Morris went to England at the start of the war, while his wife and family stayed at the Philipse Manor Hall in Yonkers. Between 14 September – 20 October 1776, General George Washington used the Morris mansion as his temporary headquarters. It later served as the headquarters of British Lieutenant General Sir Henry Clinton, and the Hessian commander Baron Wilhelm von Knyphausen.
Morris returned to New York in 1777, after the city had been captured by the British, and became the Inspector of the Claims of Refugees in the rank of provincial colonel serving until 1783; he and his family left for England after the success of the Revolution. In 1779, estates of 58 prominent Loyalists, including their home and Mary's share of the Philipse Patent were confiscated by the Commissioners of Forfeiture according to the Attainder Act of 1879 passed by the Third Session of the New York Legislature on 22 October 1779. These were later sold by auction along with Morris's plate and furniture without compensation despite the assurances of restitution in the 1783 Treaty of Paris that Revolutionary representatives signed with the British.[note 2] As many citizens of New York, however, still harbored strong resentment against the loyalists, the Provincial Congress effectively nullified the Treaty of Paris of 1783 by an act of May 12, 1784.
After the war
It was subsequently shown in court that by prenuptial agreement the Morris share of the Philipse Patent was vested in their children and had not been reached by the bill of attainder after all. In 1809, John Jacob Astor bought the interest of the heirs of Morris for this property for £20,000 sterling and brought suit against the State. After Mary Philipse Morris died in 1825 Astor attempted to collect rents on the lands, but the new owners, who had purchased from the lands from the NY Commission of Forfeiture, refused to pay and Astor tried to evict them. A compromise was reached in 1828 when NY State compensated Astor for the reversionary rights in the amount of $500,000.[note 3]
Morris had two sons and two daughters by the marriage. The eldest son, Amherst Morris, entered the Royal Navy, and was first lieutenant of the frigate Nymphe, where served under Captain Sir Edward Pellew (later Viscount Exmouth), in her famous action with the French frigate La Cleopatre. He died in 1802.
The other son, Henry Gage Morris, also saw much service in the Royal Navy, and rose to the rank of rear-admiral. He afterwards resided at York and at Beverley, England. He died at Beverley in 1852, and was buried in Beverley Minster. He was father of Francis Orpen Morris the naturalist.
- In 1756-1757, Joseph Chew (b. 1720), a Colonial merchant and port surveyor in New London, Connecticut, and an acquaintance of George Washington through his brother Colby who served in Colonel George Washington's Virginia Regiment, wrote several letters to George Washington, which started the legend of a Washington/Mary Philipse doomed love. In early 1756, George Washington, shared company with Beverley Robinson, his wife Susanna Philipse Robinson, and her visiting sister Mary Eliza "Polly" Philipse as he stayed at Robinson's place, the Philipse Manor House on Hudson River, during his trips to Boston:
- 4 March 1756: "I have this moment a Letter from our Worthy friend B. Robinson, he, Mrs. Robinson, the agreeable Miss Polly and all his family are Very well."
- 14 March 1757: "I am now at Mr. Robinson’s, he, Mrs. Robinson and his Dear Little Family are all well and they desire their Compliments to you. Pretty Miss Polly is in the same Condition & situation as you saw her." (*"Condition & situation" refer to Mary’s alleged affections for Washington.)
- 13 July 1757: "As to the Latter part of your Letter what shall I say? I often had the Pleasure of Breakfasting with the Charming Polly. Roger Morris* was there (don’t be startled) but not always; you know he is a Lady’s man... " (*Roger Morris ultimately married Mary Philipse in January 1758.)
- 13 July 1757: "I intend to set out tomorrow for New York where I will not be wanting to let Miss Polly know the sincere Regard a Friend* of mine has for her and I am sure if she had my Eyes to see thro she would Prefer him to all others." (*The "Friend" being George Washington.)
- The Washington's half of the correspondence has not been found, however, the biographer of Washington Douglas Southall Freeman wrote that "a match between them had been considered a possibility" (Freeman, Douglas Southall. George Washington, Volume 2: Young Washington (1948) p. 160). See: Philipse Manor Hall State Historic Site and Museum website.
- Description of the Abstract of Sales, Commissioners of Forfeiture: "Article V of the peace treaty signed by Britain and the United States in Paris on September 3, 1783, insisted on the restitution of all estates, rights, and properties, which have been confiscated belonging to real British subjects and to noncombatant loyalists. Tories who fought the United States were to be given one year to reclaim their property and leave the country. Payments were to be made to loyalists whose estates had already been sold. Article VI prohibited any future confiscations." See: Proceedings of the Commissioners of Forfeiture Summary
- In 1809, John Jacob Astor bought the interest of the heirs of Morris for this property for £20,000 and brought suit against the State. The State to protect those who held title from the Commissioners of Forfeiture, passed a law, April 16, 1827, directing 5 suits to be prosecuted to judgment in the Circuit Court of New York for review and final decision. If against the defendants, the State agreed to pay $450,000 in 5 per cent stock, redeemable at pleasure; and if the decision included improvements that had been made by occupants, $250,000 more. Three suits were tried, each resulting in favor of Astor; upon which the comptroller was, by act of April 5, 1832, directed to issue stock for the full amount, with costs. The amount issued was $561,500. Few suits have been tried in the State involving larger interests to greater numbers, or which were argued with more ability, than this. See: French's Gazetteer of the State of New York (1860)
- Chichester, Henry Manners (1894). "Morris, Roger". In Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900. 39. London: Elder Smith & Co. pp. 105–106.
- "His Majesty's 40th Regiment of Foot: Hopson's Grenadiers (1755-1763)". MilitaryHeritage.com. Access Heritage Inc. Retrieved 2018-04-18.
- Henderson, Robert (1996). "His Majesty's 40th Regiment of Foot in North America 1717-1764". Militaryheritage.com. Retrieved April 18, 2018.
- Simmons, Richard C. (1965). "Mrs. Morris and the Philipse Family, American Loyalists". Winterthur Portfolio. 2: 14–26. JSTOR 1180449.
- Ward, Harry M. (January 1999). "Morris, Roger". American National Biography. Retrieved April 18, 2018 – via Oxford University Press.
- "A Brief History of the Morris-Jumel Mansion". Morris-Jumel Mansion. Retrieved April 18, 2018.
- Morris-Jumel Mansion on the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation website
- "History/Architecture". Morris-Jumel Mansion website. Archived from the original on 20 April 2013. Retrieved 5 May 2013.
- Morris-Jumel Mansion Interior Designation Report, New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, 27 May 1975.
- Ryerson, Egerton. The Loyalists of America and Their Times, from 1620 to 1816; in Two Volumes. Toronto: Briggs, 1880.
- "Morris–Jumel Mansion". Harlem and the Heights. New York Architecture. Retrieved 2013-05-05.
- The New York Act of Attainder, or Confiscation Act.
- New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission; Dolkart, Andrew S.; Postal, Matthew A. (2009), Postal, Matthew A., ed., Guide to New York City Landmarks (4th ed.), New York: John Wiley & Sons, ISBN 978-0-470-28963-1, p. 210.
- White, Norval; Willensky, Elliot & Leadon, Fran (2010), AIA Guide to New York City (5th ed.), New York: Oxford University Press, ISBN 9780195383867, p. 561.
- Yoshpe, Harry B. The Disposition of Loyalist Estates in the Southern District of the State of New York. New York: Columbia University Press, 1939.
- Philipse Manor Hall State Historic Site and Museum website
- Women of the American Revolution: Mary Philipse
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chichester, Henry Manners (1894). . In Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography. 39. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
- Shelton, W H. The Jumel Mansion: Being a Full History of the House on Harlem Heights Built by Roger Morris Before the Revolution. Together with Some Account of Its More Notable Occupants. Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin Co, 1916.
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