Bullet-Point Bio: Robert Morris

-He was one of the signers from Pennsylvania and one of only two men (the other being Roger Sherman) to sign all three significant founding documents – The Declaration of Independence, The Articles of Confederation, and The U.S. Constitution.

-He was born in Liverpool and lived from January 31st, 1734 to May 8th, 1806.

-At the time of America’s founding, Robert Morris was considered the most powerful man in America next to George Washington.

-Robert’s father was a wealthy merchant and moved to Maryland to participate in the tobacco trade when Robert was four years old.

-Robert traveled to the colonies by himself when he was in his early teens.  He studied with a tutor for about a year until he had learned all that he could from him.

-His father died in an accident when Robert was in his mid-teens.

-Robert apprenticed with and later went into partnership with Charles Willing – a leading Philadelphia merchant.  The firm came to be called Willing, Morris, & Co..

-During one of his voyages with his mercantile business, Robert was captured by the French.  He escaped to Cuba where he worked to buy food and provide for himself until an American ship arrived.

-Marilyn Boyer writes in For You They Signed, “When Parliament passed the Stamp Act, twenty-nine-year-old Morris took part in a meeting in Davenport’s Tavern at which four hundred Philadelphia merchants, including Willing, Morris & Co., signed the Non-Importation Resolutions.  Though this was a serious blow to their business, it seemed a patriotic duty to resist British encroachments on American rights.  The next year Morris entered public life as Warden of the Port of Philadelphia.”

-Robert married Mary White in 1769.  They had five sons and two daughters.

-Robert and Mary were generous in their hospitality and entertained many prominent people of the founding era including George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette.

-Robert worked closely with the war efforts.  Again from For You They Signed, “Willing, Morris & Co. imported supplies for the army and sometimes did banking for Congress.”

-Robert was not originally in favor of declaring independence – he objected to the time, not the act.  However, he did sign the Declaration of Independence and later stated that he had been mistaken in his first opinion.

-During the winter of 1777, it was Robert Morris that George Washington contacted when short on supplies for the army (since Congress was slow on getting them).  Robert worked tirelessly to get the army supplied with the funds it needed to make the necessary purchases.

-He personally aided in the financing of the American War for Independence (giving millions of his own money) and was given the responsibility for America’s finances.  Once he was appointed America’s financier, Robert Morris was able to spend less than a quarter of what Congress was previously spending in order to keep the war efforts funded.

-Morris’ signature stood for integrity and honor and often it was his signature alone that paved the way for borrowing money for the public cause when the credit of our nation was almost gone.

-It’s extremely interesting to note that it was Robert Morris’ personal credit that made the Yorktown Campaign possible – the very campaign that ended the war upon Cornwallis’ surrender.

-He founded the Bank of America at Philadelphia.

-He was a delegate of Pennsylvania to the Annapolis Convention (which had to do with protectionist trade barriers that each state had set up).

-He declined Washington’s offer to serve as the United States’ first Secretary of the Treasury and suggested that Washington appoint Alexander Hamilton to the position (which he did).

-Robert Morris was the first person to use the dollar sign ($) in official documents and correspondence.  It was commonly used among private merchants at the time.

-In later life, having sacrificed his fortune for the cause of freedom, he spent three years in a debtors prison.

-He remained friends with George Washington his entire life and was also a friend of Thomas Jefferson.

-His will was found in 1939 in a forgotten vault in Philadelphia City Hall along with the wills of six other signers.

-Many institutions have been named in honor of him including several schools, universities, and navy ships.

Robert Morris served in many public offices including:

-Being Vice President of the First Continental Congress

-Serving as Superintendent of Finance (forerunner to the position of Secretary of the Treasury)

-Serving on the Committee of Naval Armaments

-Serving on the Ways and Means Committee

-Serving on the Committee of Commerce and Committee of Finance

-Served in the Constitutional Convention

-Serving on the Committee of Safety

-Serving two different terms in the Pennsylvania Legislature

-Robert Morris stated, “Religion is the only solid basis of good morals; therefore education should teach the precepts of religion and the duties of man towards God.”

-Robert lived his belief that it is, “the duty of every individual to act his part in whatever station his country may call him to in hours of difficulty, danger and distress.  This, he said, was the only thing a gentleman could do.”

-It has been said that, “The Americans certainly owed, and still owe, as much acknowledgement to the financial operations of Robert Morris, as to the negotiations of Franklin, or even the arms of Washington.”


-Photo credit: Wikipedia: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Robert_Morris.jpg


For You They Signed, Marilyn Boyer

Signers of the Declaration of Independence, John and Katherine Bakeless, 1969

Four a Centuries of American Education, David Barton, 2004

Botta’s War of Independence, Vol III

2 thoughts on “Bullet-Point Bio: Robert Morris”

  1. I have read most of your site and am encouraged that young people are willing to step up and lead the way in making America truly great.

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