Morris, Robert Hunter

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Morris, Robert Hunter

MORRIS, ROBERT HUNTER. (1713?–1764). Chief justice of New Jersey, governor of Pennsylvania. Born at the family manor in Westchester County, New York, perhaps in 1713, Robert Morris was the second son of the wealthy and powerful Lewis Morris, first lord of the manor of Morrisania. When Lewis Morris became governor of New Jersey in 1738 he made his son, Robert, chief justice of that state. In this capacity, Robert Morris belligerently supported his father's defense of the royal prerogative. In the 1740s he was the most active member of the East Jersey Board of Proprietors, which sought to throw settlers off their lands and led to a decade of controversy in New Jersey. Morris went to London in 1749 to make the case for using British troops to put down the riots. While in London he became close to the Penn family. In 1754 Thomas Penn, proprietor of Pennsylvania, appointed Morris deputy governor of that state. Morris immediately came into conflict with the Quaker-dominated legislature, which refused to allow a militia or to approve military funding. They also failed to pay Morris a salary, leading to his resignation in 1756. He returned to his job as chief justice in New Jersey, a position he had held even while in Britain and Pennsylvania for nearly seven years. He continued as chief justice until his death on 27 January 1764, after a wild night with a minister's wife. He never married, but had at least three children. One of these, Robert Morris (c. 1745–1815), inherited most of his large estate and was chief justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court from 1777 to 1779.

SEE ALSO Morris, Gouverneur; Morris, Lewis.


McConville, Brendan. These Daring Disturbers of the Public Peace: The Struggle for Property and Power in Early New Jersey. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1999.

Robert Hunter Morris Papers. Newark, N.J.: New Jersey Historical Society.

                             revised by Michael Bellesiles