Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

LEWIS MORRIS. LEWIS MORRIS was born at the manor of Morrisania, in the State of New York, in the year 1726. He was educated at Yale College, of which institution he received the honors. On his return home, he devoted himself to agriculture. When the dissensions with the mother country began, he was in a most fortunate condition ; with an ample estate, a fine family, an excellent constitution, literary taste, and general occupations, of which he was fond. He renounced at once all these comforts and attractions, in order to assert the rights of his country. He was elected a delegate from New York to the Congress of 1775, wherein he served on the most important committees. He was placed on a committee, of which Washington was chairman, to devise means to suppy the colonies with ammunition; and was appointed to the arduous task of detaching the western Indians from a coalition with Great Britain. On this errand, he repaired to Pittsburg, and acted with great zeal and address. In the beginning of 1776, he resumed his seat in Congress, where he continued a laborious and very useful member.

When the subject of independence began to be openly talked of among the people of America, in none of the colonies was a greater unwillingness to the measure betrayed than among the inhabitants of New York. There were many, however, who were the determined opposers of all farther attempts at compromise ; and among the latter was Mr. Morris. When he signed the Declaration of Independence, it was at the most obvious risk of his rich and beautiful estate, the dispersion of his family, and the ruin of his domestic enjoyments and hopes. He manifested on the occasion a degree of patriotism and disinterestedness, which few had it in their power to display.

It happened as was anticipated. The beautiful manor of Morrisania was laid waste by the hostile army and a tract of woodland of more than a thousand acres in extent was destroyed. Few men during the Revolution were called to make greater sacrifices than Mr. Morris; and none could make them more cheerfully.

He quitted Congress in 1777, and was afterwards a member of the State Legislature, and a Major General of militia. His latter years were devoted to the pursuit of agriculture; his fondness for which was an amiable trait in his character. He died, very generally esteemed, on his paternal estate, in January, 1798, at the age of seventyone years.

ROBERT MORRIS. ROBERT MORRIS, the great financier of the American Revolution, was born in Lancashire, England, January, 1733-4, 0. S., of respectable parentage. His father embarked for America, and caused him to follow at the age of thirteen. He received a respectable education, and before he reached his fifteenth year, was placed in the counting-house of Mr. Charles Willing, at that time one of the first merchants at Philadelphia. His diligence and capacity gained him the full confidence of Mr. Willing, after whose death, he entered into partnership with his son, Thomas Willing, subsequently president of the bank of the United States. This connexion lasted from the year 1754 until 1793,--a period of thirty-nine years.

At the commencement of the American Revolution, Mr. Morris was more extensively engaged in commerce than any other merchant of Philadelphia. He zealously opposed the encroachments of the British government on the liberties of the colonists, and embraced the popular cause, at the imminent sacrifice of his private interest and wealth. He declared himself immediately against the stamp act, signed, without hesitation, the non-importation agreement of 1765, and, in so doing, made a direct sacrifice of trade.

In 1775, Mr. Morris was elected, by the Legislature of Pennsylvania, a delegate to the second General Congress. He was placed upon every committee of ways and means, and connected with all the deliberations and arrangements relative to the navy, maritime affairs, and financial interests. Besides aiding his country by his talents for business, his judgment, and his knowledge, he employed his extensive credit in obtaining loans, to a large amount, for the use of the government.

h

In May, 1777, he was elected a third time to Congress, and continued to be the chief director of the financial op erations of the government. In 1780, he proposed the establishment of a bank, the chief object of which was, to supply the army with provisions. He headed the list with a subscription of ten thousand pounds; and others followed to the amount of three hundred thousand pounds. The institution was established, and continued until the bank of North America went into operation in the following year.

In 1781, Mr Morris was appointed, by Congress, Superintendent of Finance. The state of the treasury, when he was appointed to its superintendence, was as bad as possible. Abroad, the public credit was every moment in danger of annihilation. At home, the greatest public, as well as private distress, prevailed. The treasury was so much in arrears to the servants of the public offices, that many

of them could not without payment perform their duties, but must have gone to jail for debts they had contracted to enable them to live. It was even asserted, by some of the members of the board of war, had not the means of sending an express to the army. But the wasted and prostrate skeleton of public credit sprung to life and action at the reviving touch of Robert Morris. The face of things was suddenly changed. Public and private credit was restored; and it has been said, that "the Americans owe as much acknowledgment to the financial operations of Robert Morris, as to the negociations of Benjamin Franklin, or even the arms of George Washington.”

The establishment of the bank of North America was one of his first and most beneficial measures; an institution which he himself planned, and to forward which, he pledged his personal credit to an immense amount.

In 1786, Mr. Morris was chosen to the Assembly of Pennsylvania ; and the same year was elected a mem of the Convention which framed the Federal Constitution. For the adoption of the present system, he was one of the most strenuous advocates. In 1788, the General Assembly of Pennsy.vania appointed him to represent the State in the first Senate of the United States, which as

that they sembled in New York. He was a Auent and impressive speaker; and wrote with great ease and power. His conversation was replete with interest and instruction. When the Federal Government was organized, Washington offered him the post of Secretary of the Treasury, which he declined; and, being requested to designate a person for it, he named General Hamilton. At the conclusion of the war, he was among the first who engaged in the East India and China trade. He was, also, the first who made an attempt to effect what is termed an out of season passage to China.

In his latter days, Mr. Morris embarked in vast land speculations, which proved fatal to his fortune. The man who had so immensely contributed to our national existence and independence, passed the closing years of his life in a prison ; a beautiful commentary upon those laws which make no distinction between guilt and misfortune, and condemn the honest debtor to the punishment of the convicted felon! He died on the 8th of May, 1806, in the seventy-third year of his age.

Until the period of his impoverishment, the house of Mr. Morris was a scene of the most lavish hospitality. It was open, for nearly half a century, to all the respectable strangers who visited Philadelphia. He was active in the acquisition of money, but no one more freely parted with his gains. No one pursued a more enlightened policy, or manifested through life a greater degree of humanity, virtue, energy. and gentlemanly spirit, than Robert Morris.

JOHN MORTON. John Morton was born in the county of Chester, (now Delaware,) in Pennsylvania. His ancestors were of Swedish extraction; and his father died a few months previous to his birth.

About the year 1764, Mr. Morton was sent as a delegate to the General Assembly of Pennsylvania, of which ħe continued for several years an active and distinguished member. He was also appointed to attend the General Congress at New York. In 1766, he was made sheriff of the county in which he resided, and, short.y after, was elevated to a seat on the bench, in the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. He was deputed to the Congress of 1774, and continued to represent Pennsylvania in that assembly through the memorable session of 1776. On the question of declaring independence, in the latter year, the delegation from Pennsylvania being divided, Mr. Morton gave his casting vote in the affirmative. This was an act of great intrepidity, under all the circumstances of the case; and placed upon him a fearful load of responsibility. But he did not hesitate to assume it. The enemies of the measure were exasperated at his conduct; but, on his death-bed, he desired his attendants to tell his revilers that the hour would come, when it would be acknowledged, that his vote in favor of American Independence was the most illustrious act of his life. It is needless to observe how fully and comprehensively his prophetic annunciation has been fulfilled.

In 1777, Mr. Morton assisted in organizing a system of confederation for the colonies, and was chairman of the committee of the whole, at the time when it was agreed to. During the same year, he was seized with an inflammatory fever, and died on the 15th of November, in the fifty-fourth year of his age. He left behind a character for piety, liberality, and patriotism, which his actions are sufficient to substantiate

THOMAS NELSON, JUN. THOMAS Nelson was born at York, in Virginia, on the 26th of December, 1738. At the age of fourteen, he was sent to England, and placed at a private school in the neighborhood of London. He was afterwards removed to the University of Cambridge, where he enjoyed the instruction of the eminent Doctor Porteus, subsequently Bishop of London. About the close of 1761, he returned to his native country, and, in the following year, married the daughter of Philip Grymes, Esq., of Brandon. His ample fortune enabled him to indulge his spirit of hospi

« AnteriorContinuar »