The Morris Brothers Choose Different Sides

 Gouverneur Morris is depicted in a 1783 portrait after a drawing by Pierre Eugène Du Simitière.

Gouverneur Morris is depicted in a 1783 illustration after a drawing by Pierre Eugène Du Simitière.

The Revolution forced Americans to decide whether to support independence or remain loyal to Britain.  Sometimes members of the same family came up with different answers to this vexing question of loyalty.  In the early 1770s the rich and politically powerful Morris family of New York faced the problem of choosing sides.  Some members of the family were patriots and played important roles in creating the new United States of America.  Lewis Morris was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.  His half brother Gouverneur Morris was a member of the Continental Congress and later authored substantial parts of the United States Constitution.  A third brother, Richard Morris, who was a British Vice Admiralty Court judge before the war, resigned his position and joined the patriot cause, becoming a New York State Supreme Court judge. 

A fourth Morris brother, Staats Long Morris, took a different political course.  Staats Morris was born in America and educated at Yale, but as a young man joined the British Army.  He decided to make the military his career, and by the time the Revolution began he was already a Brigadier General.  He also became a member of the British Parliament in 1774 and served in that body at the same time his brothers were in the American Continental Congress.  General Morris chose to remain loyal to the King.  He stayed in the British army and eventually became a full general, although he was never required to fight in America.  After the Revolution, Staats Morris travelled to America briefly to settle some business affairs with his brothers but soon returned to Britain.  He is buried in Westminster Abbey.

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