Morris, Corbyn (DNB00)

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MORRIS, CORBYN (d. 1779), commissioner of customs, first attracted notice by the publication of 'A Letter from a Bystander to a Member of Parliament, wherein is examined what necessity there is for the maintenance of a large regular land-force in. this island ; what proportions the Revenues of the Crown have borne to those of the people at different periods from the Restoration to his present Majesty's Accession ; and whether the weight of Power in the Royal or popular side now preponderates,' London, 1741-2, 8vo ; 3rd edit. 1743. In this pamphlet he shows that the power of the crown depends upon economic conditions, and, after an elaborate discussion of the relative resources of the crown and the people, decides that 'our tendency at present, unless it be rightly moderated, lies much stronger to democracy than to absolute monarchy' (p. 58). His estimates of national income are based on the mercantilist theory, that 'the whole annual income at any period is greater or less according to the quantity of coin then circulating in the kingdom' (p. 107). He concludes with a eulogy of Walpole's administration, and an appeal for a 'reasonable candour' in the inquiry into his conduct. The 'Letter from a Bystander' was generally supposed to have been written by Walpole or by his direction. On this assumption the author was vehemently attacked in 'A Proper Answer to the Bystander,' &c. (attributed to. William Pulteney), London, 1742, 8vo, and ' A Full Answer to the "Letter from a Bystander "... by R—— H——, esq. [Thomas Carte],' London, 1742, 8vo (Rawlinson MS. D. 89; cf. Carte MSS., Bodleian Library, 10705, f. 3). Morris replied with ' A Letter to the Rev. Mr. Thomas Carte ... by a Gentleman of Cambridge,' London, 1743, 8vo. The controversy terminated with the publication by Carte of 'A Full and Clear Vindication of the Full Answer,' &c., London, 1743, 8vo. (ib.)

During the administrations of Pelham and Newcastle, Morris was employed by them 'in conciliating opponents' (Morris to Charles Yorke, 30 Dec. 1759, Addit. MS. 32900, f. 431). On the suppression of the rebellion, of 1745 he submitted to Newcastle (8 May 1746) several proposals for the regulation of the highlands. He suggested (1) the registration of all lands and deeds at London and Stirling, and the reversion to the crown, of lands not so registered ; (2) the abolition of entail and the vesting in the landowner of absolute property in the land ; (3) the division of the land among the children on the death of the landowners ; (4) the payment of rent only in case of a written agreement between landlord and tenant; (5) the settlement of all forfeited lands with new tenants ; and (6) the universal abolition of the highland dress. He pointed out that, unless they were dispersed, the power of the old highland families would be increased by the encouragement of trade and manufactures (ib. 32707, f. 162). On 3 June 1747 he drew up 'Hints respecting a Treaty with Spain' (ib. 32711, f. 194), in which he suggested the adoption, in the case of Spain, of the principle of the Methuen treaty, the exchange of Gibraltar for Ceuta and St. Augustine, and the removal from Minorca of the Roman catholic inhabitants.

In 1751 Morris was appointed by Pelham secretary of the customs and salt duty in Scotland. His salary was 500l. per annum. He was sent to Scotland to inquire into the state of the customs and the practices of the smugglers. As an administrator he showed great ability. He regulated the method of weighing tobacco, thus augmenting the customs, and by suppressing the importation, under the Spanish duty, of French wines into Scotland removed a grievance of which English merchants had long complained. He claimed that during the first five years of his secretaryship more money had been remitted from the customs in Scotland to the receiver-general in England than in all the preceding years since the union (ib. 32872, f. 198). As a result of his experience he submitted to Newcastle in 1752 and 1758 several suggestions for the better regulation of the customs and salt duties.

Meanwhile Morris's efforts for economic reform had not been confined to the sphere of his official duties. He had collected much useful information on the vital statistics of London, and in 1753 he prepared a bill 'for a general registry of the total number of the people of Great Britain, and of their annual increase and diminution by births and deaths.' On this work he consulted Dr. Squire, who was 'master of the whole plan' (Morris to the Duke of Newcastle, 22 Jan. 1753, ib. 52731, f. 67). He explained the advantages of a census to the Duke of Newcastle, under whose 'immediate direction' the bill was introduced into the House of Lords (ib. 2Q May 1753, ib. f. 480). He was elected F.R.S. on 19 May 1757, and admitted to the society a week later. Dissatisfied with his position in Scotland, and anxious to return to England, Morris made many attempts to obtain from Newcastle an official appointment in the English revenue department. On 15 March 1763 he was appointed commissioner of the customs. Morris died on 24 Dec. 1779, and was buried at Wimbledon on 1 Jan. 1780. He married on 15 Sept. 1758 a Mrs. Wright.

Though a strong supporter of the mercantile theory, Morris's economic works are valuable. He was an able statistician. According to his friend David Hume, he used to say that he wrote all his books for the sake of their dedications (Hume to Gilbert Elliot of Minto, 12 March 1763; Burton, Life of Hume, ii. 147). He published, in addition to the two pamphlets mentioned above: 1. 'An Essay towards fixing the True Standards of Wit, Humour, Raillery, Satire, and Ridicule, &c. Inscribed to the Right Honourable Robert, Earl of Orford,' London, 1744, 8vo. Horace Walpole sent this essay to Sir Horace Mann as one of 'the only new books at all worth reading. . . . The dedication to my father is fine; pray mind the quotation from Milton' (Walpole to Sir Horace Mann, 18 June 1744, Letters, ed. Cunningham, i. 306). 2. ' An Essay towards illustrating the Science of Insurance, wherein it is attempted to fix, by precise Calculation, several important Maxims upon this subject,' &c., London, 1747, 8vo. 3. 'An Essay towards deciding the important Question, Whether it be a National Advantage to Britain to insure the Ships of her Enemies? Addressed to the Right Honourable H. Pelham,' London [1747], 8vo; 2nd edition, with amendments, 'To which are now added, further considerations upon our Insurance of the French Commerce in the present juncture,' 2 parts, London, 1758, 8vo. 4. 'Observations on the past Growth and present State of the City of London. To which are annexed a complete Table of the Christnings and Burials within this City from 1601 to 1750 . . . together with a Table of the Numbers which have annually died of each Disease from 1675 to the present time,' &c., London, 1751, fol.; ' reprinted, . . . with a continuation of the tables to the end of ... 1757,' London, 1757 and 1759, 4to. 5. 'A Letter balancing the Causes of the Present Scarcity of our Silver Coin, and the Means of Immediate Remedy, &c. Addressed to the . . . Earl of Powis,' London, 1757, 8vo. In this pamphlet Morris attributes the scarcity to exportation, arising from the fact that, while in the coinage of England the ratio of gold to silver was 1 : 15^^^, the ratio abroad was 1 : 14½. He intended to write some additional observations on this subject, and asked Newcastle for his patronage (Morris to the Duke of Newcastle, 29 June 1757, Addit. MS. 32871, f. 452), but nothing further was published. 6. 'A Plan for Arranging and Balancing the Accounts of Landed Estates,' &c., London, 1759, fol. 7. 'Remarks upon Mr. Mill's Proposals for publishing a Survey of the Trade of Great Britain, Ireland, and the British Colonies,' London, 1771, fol. An 'Account of the Duties and Customs to which Foreign Merchants are Subject. Sent with a Letter to Lord Shelburne, 22 Aug. 1768,' among the Additional MSS. in the British Museum, is in Morris's handwriting (ib. 30228, f. 192). Some lines by Morris 'On reading Dr. Goldsmith's poem "The Deserted Village"' are printed in ' The New Foundling Hospital for Wit '(1784, vi. 95).

[Authorities quoted and Addit. MSS. (Brit. Mus.) 32705 f. 41, 32726 f. 12, 32860 f. 46, 32864 f. 287, 32866 f. 247, 32877ff. 150, 448, 32878 f. 96, 32895 f. 436, 32968 f. 373; Thomson's Hist, of Royal Society, Appendix iv. xlviii.; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. ii. 227, 504, 508; Boswell's Johnson, ed. Hill, iv. 107.]

W. A. S. H.