New Jersey Obituaries - January 5, 1898 - Robert Morris's Millions

Robert Morris's Millions

His Heirs To Appeal To Congress

He Loaned the Government His Entire Fortune During the Revolutionary War-A Number of His Descendants Live in This County

The descendants of Robert Morris, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and the financier in the revolutionary war, who gave money from his own private fortune to aid the government in those trying days, and who later died in a debtor's prison, propose to apply to congress for the return of the money thus loaned, together with accumulated interest. A number of his descendants live in Monmouth county.

Exactly how much money was advanced to the government cannot be definitely ascertained. History says that Robert Morris was superintendent of finance and vested with complete control for some years over the monetary affairs of the country. He was one of the richest men in the country during the revolutionary war, and he gave his entire fortune to aid the American army.

At the time of Cornwallis's campaign Morris advanced the American government $1,500,000 in his own notes, with the understanding that the amount should be repaid when the new government was established. Several times he used his reputation as a man of great wealth to save the treasury from embarrassment, and there is no record in the department that any portion of the money he advanced was ever repaid.

After the war for independence was over, Mr. Morris found himself a poor man. His entire fortune had gone to aid the patriot army, and he was utterly without means. He was arrested for debt, and was thrown in prison, one of the penalties for debt at that time being imprisonment. He could not pay the debt nor give security, and he subsequently died in prison.

Several years ago the descendants of Robert Morris undertook to get congress to pass a bill, returning to them the money which had been loaned to the government during the revolution. The petition set forth the facts as they were then known, and the petition was referred by congress to a special committee for investigation. That committee subsequently reported that it had found in one of the old books of the United States treasury an entry showing that Robert Morris had loaned the government $100,000. The committee also reported its inability to trace the transaction further on account of the destruction of the treasury building by the British army, at which time most of the records were destroyed. The destruction of the records also prevented the committee from ascertaining from the books what money had been advanced to the government by Mr. Morris. The committee declined to either reject the claim, or to admit its validity, and it recommended that it be laid over until further evidence could be obtained by the claimants.

Robert Morris when he died left four sons. One of these sons was a private in the revolutionary army. This young man deserted, went to England, and was never afterward heard of. All trace of his descendants have been lost. The other sons, attached to the patriot cause and sharing the fortunes of their father, lived in New Jersey and drifted to Monmouth county.

How many heirs of the great financier are now living is not known. Thirty persons have been found, the purity of whose descent cannot be questioned. The main line of the claimants are the children of James and Elizabeth Morris, who were the children of Robert Morris, Jr., son of the original Robert Morris. There are five heirs of James Morris living in the neighborhood of Asbury park, Glendola and Belmar. Elizabeth Morris had eight children.

Charles E. Cook, a lawyer of Asbury Park, was employed in 1892 by the heirs of Robert Morris in Monmouth county and on Long Island to take steps for the recovery of the money advanced by their forefather. Mr. Cook at that time made a personal examination of Robert Morris's signature found on the Declaration of Independence, and compared it with the name written on the flyleaf of the old family bible, now in possession of heirs residing in Asbury Park. He found the writing in both cases to be identical. He procured the evidence and succeeded in establishing the chain of descent. It was he who prepared the petition to congress, which was laid over by that body to await future evidence.

Since 1892 lawyers have been engaged in collecting evidence which it is claimed will prove not only the indebtedness but the accuracy of relationship, which at the time of the former bill was somewhat in doubt. Two Philadelphia lawyers who represent one branch of the Morris family, and a New York lawyer who is working in the interest of the Long Island descendants, are now obtaining signatures of the claimants.

Source: Red Bank Register, Wednesday, January 5, 1898