Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Morris, Roger

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1338226Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 39 — Morris, Roger1894Henry Manners Chichester

MORRIS, ROGER (1727–1794), lieutenant-colonel, American loyalist, born in England on 28 Jan. 1727, was third son of Roger Morris of Netherby, in the North Riding of Yorkshire, by his first wife, the fourth daughter of Sir Peter Jackson, kt. He was appointed captain in Francis Ligonier's regiment (48th foot), of which Henry Seymour Conway [q. v.] was lieutenant-colonel, 13 Sept. 1745. The regiment served at Falkirk and Culloden and in Flanders. Morris went with it to America in 1755, and was aide-de-camp to Major-general Edward Braddock [q. v.] in the unfortunate expedition against Fort Duquesne, where he was wounded. Had the enterprise proved successful, Braddock proposed to bring a provincial regiment, serving with the expedition, into the line, and make Morris lieutenant-colonel of it (Winthrop Sargent, in Trans. Hist. Soc. Pennsylvania). Morris served at the siege of Louisburg, and was employed against the Indians on the frontier of Novia Scotia. On 16 Feb. 1758 he was promoted to a majority in the 35th foot, and in the same year he married. He was with Wolfe at Quebec, where he was wounded; with James Murray (1729-1794) [q. v.] at Sillery; and commanded one of the columns of Murray's force in the advance on Montreal. On 19 May 1760 he was made lieutenant-colonel 147th foot . He served as aide-de-camp to Generals Thomas Gage [q.v.] and Jeffrey Amherst, lord Amherst [q.v.], at various times. He sold out of the army in 1764, and settled at New York city, where he was made a member of the executive council in December of the same year. He built a mansion on the Hudson, where he lived with his wife until their property was confiscated in 1776. The house was Washington's headquarters at one time. Morris's plate and furniture were sold by auction some weeks later. Morris returned to England, and died at York 13 Sept. 1794. Morris married Mary Philipse, who was born in 1730 at the Manor House, Hudson's River, the daughter of Frederick Philipse, the second lord of the manor. She was a handsome, rather imperious brunette, whom Fenimore Cooper drew as his heroine in 'The Spy.' In 1756, when on a visit to her brother-in-law, Beverley Robinson, at New York, she captivated George Washington, who was a guest in the house. She is said to have rejected his suit. Any way, she married Morris in 1758. American writers have speculated what might have been the consequence to American independence had Washington become united to so uncompromising a loyalist. Mrs. Morris inherited a large estate, part of which was in Putnam county, New York, including Lake Mahopac. This she used to visit half-yearly, to instruct her tenants in household and religious duties, until 1776, when it was confiscated. She, her sister Mrs. Beverley Robinson, and Mrs. Charles Inglis are said to have been the only three women attainted

by the American government. She returned to England with her husband, and died at York in 1825 at the age of ninety-five. A monument to her and her husband is in St. Saviour's Gate Church, York. There were two sons and two daughters by the marriage. The eldest son, Amherst Morris, entered the royal navy, and was first lieutenant of the Nymphe frigate, Captain Sir Edward Pellew, afterwards Viscount Exmouth [q. v.], in her famous action with the French frigate La Cleopatre. He died in 1802. The other son, Henry Gage Morris, also saw much service in the navy (see O'Byrne, Nav. Biog.), and rose to the rank of rear-admiral. He afterwards resided at York and at Beverley. He died at Beverley in 1852, and was buried in Beverley Minster. He was father of Francis Orpen Morris [q.v.] the naturalist.

The English attorney-general having given his opinion that property inherited by children at the demise of their parents was not included in the aforesaid attainder, in law or equity, the surviving children of Roger and Mary Morris in 1809 sold their reversionary interests to John Jacob Astor of New York for a sum of 20,000l, to which the British government added 17,000l, in compensation for their parents' losses.

Roger Morris the loyalist is sometimes confused with his kinsman and namesake, Lieutenant-colonel Roger Morris, who entered the Coldstream guards in 1782, and was killed when serving with that regiment under the Duke of York in Holland, 19 Sept. 1799.

[Burke's Landed Gentry, ed. 1886, vol. ii., under ‘Morris of Netherby;’ Appleton's Enc. Amer. Biography; Winthrop Sargent in Trans. Hist. Soc. Pennsylvania, vol. v.; Parkman's Montcalm and Wolfe, London, 1884; Sabine's American Worthies.]

H. M. C.