Colonial Hall -- Biographies of America's Founding Fathers

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Page 1

Robert Morris


Robert Morris by Charles Willson Peale, from life, c. 1782.  Used by permission of Independence National Historic Park.
Robert Morris by Charles Willson Peale, from life, c. 1782. Used by permission of Independence National Historic Park.
   Robert Morris was a native of Lancashire, England, where he was born January, 1733-4, O.S. His father was a Liverpool merchant, who had for some years been extensively concerned in the American trade. While he was yet a boy, his father removed to America; shortly after which, he sent to England for his son, who arrived in this country at the age of thirteen years.
   Young Morris was placed at school in Philadelphia, but his progress in learning appears to have been small, probably from the incompetence of his teacher, as he declared to his father one day, on the latter expressing his dissatisfaction at the little progress he made, "Sir," said he, "I have learned all that he can teach me."
   "During the time that young Morris was pursuing his education at Philadelphia, he unfortunately lost his father, in consequence of a wound received from the wad of a gun, which was discharged as a compliment, by the captain of a ship consigned to him, that had just arrived at Oxford, the place of his residence, on the eastern shores of the Chesapeake Bay, and was thus left an orphan, at the age of fifteen years. In conformity to the intentions of his parent, he was bred to commerce, and served a regular apprenticeship in the counting-house of the late Mr. Charles Willing, at that time one of the first merchants of Philadelphia. A year or two after the expiration of the term for which he had engaged himself, he entered into partnership with Mr. Thomas Willing. This connection, which was formed in 1754, continued for the long period of thirty-nine years, not having been dissolved until 1793. Previously to the commencement of the American war, it was, without doubt, more extensively engagedin commerce than any other house in Philadelphia.
   "Of the events of his youth we know little. The fact just mentioned proves, that although early deprived of the benefit of parental counsel, he acted with fidelity, and gained the good will of a discerning master. The following anecdote will show his early activity in business, and anxiety to promote the interests of his friends. During the absence of Mr. Willing, at his country place, near Frankford, a vessel arrived at Philadelphia, either consigned to him, or that brought letters, giving intelligence of the sudden rise in the price of flour, at the port she left. Mr. Morris instantly engaged all that he could contract for, on account of Mr. Willing, who, on his return to the city next day, had to defend his young friend from the complaints of some merchants, that he had raised the price of flour. An appeal, however, from Mr. Willing, to their own probable line of conduct, in case of their having first received the news, silenced their complaints."

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Last modified January 31, 2004