Lewis Morris was born in Morrisania, in New York, in 1726. Richard Morris, an ancestor of the family, left England and came to New York. He received a land grant of several thousand acres in Westchester.
Richard Morris died in 1673, leaving a child named Lewis. Lewis became chief justice of New York. Later, he became governor of New Jersey. One of Lewis’ sons was a judge of the vice-admiralty, one was chief justice of New Jersey, and the third son was lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania.
Lewis Morris was the eldest of four brothers. At age sixteen, Lewis entered Yale College. After graduation, he pursued agriculture. Morris found his greatest pleasure in domestic life. He married Miss Walton, a lady of wealth. They had six sons and four daughters.
When troubles between Britain and the colonies began, Morris considered his options. He was wealthy and comfortable. Any collision between the British government and the colonies would reduce his privileges. With which side would he align? Neutrality was not an option for him.
Morris did not hesitate to point out the oppressive actions of the British government against the colonies. While he wanted to settle the conflict peacefully, he would not surrender his God-given rights.
In April 1775, marched on Concord and Lexington to confiscate colonial armaments. The slaughter of eight militiamen by the British made peace impossible. The New York convention of deputies assembled to appoint delegates to the Continental Congress. The convention appointed Lewis Morris as one of their representatives.
On May 15, Morris took his seat in the Congress. He served on a committee chaired by Washington to devise ways to supply the colonies with munitions. The efforts of this committee were exceedingly arduous.
The Congress also appointed Morris to separate the Indians from a coalition with the British government. Morris moved to Pittsburgh, where he could carry out this task.
At the beginning of 1776, Morris returned to his seat in Congress. He served on the committee to buy muskets and bayonets and encourage the manufacture of saltpeter and gunpowder.
Morris’ home was within cannon shot of the British army. He knew that his signature on the Declaration of Independence would ensure the devastation to his property. Yet, Morris believed that independence was a patriotic duty. He voted for independence from Great Britain and signed his name to that document.
As expected, the British army devastated Morris’ property. His family had to live in exile throughout the Revolution. Few men made more sacrifices for liberty than Morris. Yet, he did so cheerfully.
Three of Morris’ sons served the Revolutionary Army. One fought in the Carolina campaigns. A second son defended Fort Moultrie. The third son was a lieutenant of artillery.
In later years, Morris served New York in various ways. He was often a member of the state legislature and rose to the rank of major general of the militia.
In retirement, Morris devoted himself to the noiseless but happy pursuit of agriculture. In January 1798, Lewis Morris died at the age of seventy-one.