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Page 3

Robert Morris


   While attending to the duties of their appointment, Mr. Morris received a letter from Gen. Washington, then with his army on the Delaware, opposite Trenton, in which letter he communicated to Mr. Morris his distressed state, in consequence of the want of money. The sum he needed was ten thousand dollars, which was essentially necessary to enable him to obtain such intelligence of the movement and position of the enemy, as would authorize him to act offensively. To Mr. Morris, Gen. Washington now looked, to assist him in raising the money.
   This letter he read with attention, but what could he do ? The citizens generally had left the city. He knew of no one, who possessed the required sum, or who would be willing to tend it. The evening approached, and he left his counting-room to return home. On the way, he accidentally overtook an honest Quaker, with whom he was acquainted. The Quaker inquired of him the news. Mr. Morris replied, that he had but little news of importance to communicate, but he had a subject which pressed with great weight upon his mind. He now informed the Quaker of the letter which he had received, the situation of General Washington and the immediate necessity of ten thousand dollars. "Sir," said Mr. Morris, "you must let me have it. My note and my honour will be your only security." The Quaker hesitated a moment, but at length replied, "Robert, thou shalt have it." The money was soon told, was transmitted to Washington, whom it enabled to accomplish his wishes, and to gain a signal victory over the Hessians at Trenton, thus animating the drooping spirits of patriotism, and checking in no small degree. the proud hopes and predictions of the enemy.
   Another instance of patriotic liberality is recorded of Mr. Morris in 1779, or 1780. These were distressing years of the war. The army was alarmingly destitute of military stores, particularly of the essential article of lead. It was found necessary to melt down the weights of clocks and the spouts of houses; but, notwithstanding resort was had to every possible source, the army was often so destitute, that it could scarcely have fought a single battle.
   In this alarming state of things, General Washington wrote to several gentlemen, and among the rest to Judge Peters, at that time secretary to the board of war, stating his necessities, and urging an immediate exertion to supply the deficiency.
   This it seemed impossible to do. Mr. Peters, however, showed the letter of Washington to Mr. Morris. Fortunately, just at this juncture, a privateer belonging to the latter gentleman had arrived at the wharf, with ninety tons of lead. Half of this lead was immediately given by Mr. Morris, for the use of the army, and the other half was purchased by Mr. Peters of other gentlemen, who owned it, Mr. Morris becoming security for the payment of the debt. At a more advanced stage of the war, when pressing distress in the army had driven congress and the commander in chief almost to desperation, and a part of the troops to mutiny, he supplied the army with four or five thousand barrels of flour upon his own private credit; and on a promise to that effect, persuaded a member to withdraw an intended motion to sanction a procedure, which, although common in Europe, would have had a very injurious effect upon the cause of the country: this was no less than to authorize General Washington to seize all the provision that could be found, within a circle of twenty miles of his camp. While financier, his notes constituted, for large transactions, part of the circulating medium. Many other similar instances occurred of this patriotic interposition of his own personal responsibility for supplies which could not otherwise have been obtained.

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Last modified January 31, 2004