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Page 2

Robert Morris

1733-1806


   There were few men who viewed with greater indignation the encroachments of the British government upon the liberties of the people, or were more ready to resist them, than Mr. Morris. Nor did he hesitate to sacrifice his private interest for the public good, when occasion demanded it. This disposition was strikingly manifested in the year 1705, at which time he signed the non-importation agreement, entered into by the merchants of Philadelphia. The extensive mercantile concerns with England of the house of Mr. Morris, and the large importations of her manufactures and colonial produce by it, must have made this sacrifice considerable.
   The massacre at Lexington, April, 1775, seems to have decided the mind of Mr. Morris, as to the unalterable course which he would adopt in respect to England. The news of this measure reached Philadelphia four days after its occurrence. Robert Morris, with a large company, were at this time engaged at the city tavern, in the celebration, on George's day, of their patron saint. The news was received by the company with the greatest surprise. The tables, at which they were dining, were immediately deserted. A few only of the members, among whom was Mr. Morris, remained. To these, indeed to all, who had been present, it was evident that the die was cast—that the Lexington measure was an event which must lead to a final separation from the British government. Such an opinion Mr. Morris, at this time, expressed; he was willing it should take place, and from this time cordially entered into all the measures which seemed the most likely to effect the object.
   On the third of November, 1775, Mr. Morris was elected, by the legislature of Pennsylvania, a delegate to the second congress that met at Philadelphia. "A few weeks after he had taken his seat, he was added to the secret committee of that body, which had been formed by a resolve of the preceding congress, (1775,) and whose duty it was ' to contract for the importation of arms, ammunition, sulphur, and saltpetre, and to export produce on the public account, to pay for the same.' He was also appointed a member of the committee for fitting out a naval armament, and specially commissioned to negotiate bills of exchange for congress; to borrow money for thc marine committee, and to manage the fiscal concerns of congress on other occasions. Independently of his enthusiastic zeal in the cause of his country, his capacity for business, and knowledge of thc subjects committed to him, or his talents for managing pecuniary concerns, he was particularly fitted for such services; as the commercial credit he had established among his fellow-citizens probably stood higher than that of any other man in the community, and this he did not hesitate to avail himself of, whenever the public necessities required such an evidence of his patriotism.
   A highly interesting illustration of this last remark, is furnished in the conduct of Mr. Morris in the December following the Declaration of Independence. For some time previous, the British army had been directing its course towards Philadelphia, from which congress had retired, leaving a committee, consisting of Mr. Morris, Mr. Clymer, and Mr. Walton, to transact all necessary continental business.

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Last modified January 31, 2004