MORRIS, LEWIS. (1726–1798). Signer, militia general. New York. Born at the family manor of Morrisania in Westchester County, New York, on 8 April 1726, Morris attended Yale College. He left Yale in 1746, before he finished his degree, and assisted his father in the management of the extensive family estates. On the death of his father in 1762, Lewis Morris became the third and last lord of the family manor. Now, for the first time, he showed an interest in politics. After a single term in the provincial assembly in 1769, and finding that few of his Westchester County constituents endorsed his anti-British sentiments, he succeeded in organizing that minority. Despite opposition from the powerful families of the area—the De Lanceys, Pells, and Philipses—he succeeded in having a meeting called on 28 March 1775 to select the county's deputies to the provincial convention in New York City. Morris was named chairman of the eight-man delegation elected by his faction. At the convention Morris was elected a delegate to the Continental Congress, an honor he had enthusiastically sought.
Taking his seat on 15 May 1775, and remaining a delegate for two years, Morris served on committees to decide what posts should be defended in New York, to acquire military stores and munitions, and to deal with Indian affairs. On 7 June 1776 he was appointed brigadier general of the Westchester County militia, and was on leave of absence from Congress when the Declaration of Independence was approved. Later in 1776 he returned to Philadelphia and became a signer of that document. He took part in the New York campaign of 1776, when the forces of General William Howe chased George Washington and his troops right through the Morris family manor and the rest of Westchester. For the remainder of the war, Morris retained his militia rank but his services appear to have been valued by the state more in the civil domain. He was county judge in Westchester from 1777 to 1778, and served intermittently in the upper house of the state legislature between 1777 and 1790.
At the end of the war he retired as a major general of militia and restored Morrisania, which had been the scene of skirmishes on 5 August 1779, 22 January 1781, and 4 March 1782. Morris was at the Poughkeepsie ratification convention in 1788, where he supported the adoption of the federal Constitution that his half-brother, Gouverneur Morris, had helped to draft. He died at his estate on 22 January 1798.
SEE ALSO Morris, Gouverneur.
Young, Alfred F. The Democratic Republicans of New York: The Origins, 1763–1797. Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 1967.
revised by Michael Bellesiles