Robert Morris, an American financier, and a signer of the Declaration of Independence, born in Lancashire, England, Jan. 20, 1734, died in Philadelphia, May 8, 1806. When 13 years old he came to America, was placed in the counting house of Charles Willing, a merchant in Philadelphia, and in 1754 entered into partnership with the son of his employer. The firm continued till 1793, and at the beginning of the revolution was the largest commercial house in Philadelphia. Mr. Morris opposed the stamp act, signed the non-importation agreement of 1765, and was elected a delegate to the congress of 1775, serving on the military and naval committees. On July 1, 1776, he voted against the Declaration of Independence, and on the 4th declined to vote at all, considering the time premature and inappropriate; but when it was adopted he signed it. He was reelected to congress July 20, and again in 1777. At this period he was largely employed in managing the fiscal affairs of the country; and on his personal responsibility he frequently borrowed large sums for the use of the government. In 1780 Mr. Morris, in conjunction with other citizens of Philadelphia, established a bank, by means of which 3,000,-iniii rations of provisions and 300 hogsheads of ruin were forwarded to the army.
On Feb. 20, 1781, ho was unanimously elected superintendent of finance, and by subsequent resolutions of consrress was invested with almost the entire control of the financial affairs of the government. At this time the treasury was more than $2,50 1,000 in debt, the army was destitute, and the credit of the country exhausted. He established the bank of North America, which was incorporated by congress Dec. 31, 1781, and went into operation Jan. 7, 1782, with a capital of $400,000. Pennsylvania and several other states soon afterward passed laws to protect and facilitate its operations; and it proved very efficient in relieving the government of its embarrassments. In the beginning of 1781 he furnished the army with several thousand barrels of Hour; and in the campaign of that year he supplied nearly everything required for the expedition against Cornwallis. For this purpose he issued his own notes to the amount of $1,400,000, which were finally all paid. But, harassed by the claims of the public creditors, and indignant at the indisposition of the several states to fulfil their engagements, Mr. Morris resigned in January 1783, but consented to serve until May 1, and did not finally withdraw until November, 1784. On May 0, 1784, congress at his urgent request appointed three commissioners to superintend the treasury, and a committee to inspect the conduct of the department.
He published a long and able account of his administration. Before he resigned he issued a public, notice pledging himself personally to provide for his engagements in behalf of the government. No agent of marine being appoint.'!. Mr. Morris, as superintendent of finance, was compelled to regulate the affairs of the navy until the close of 1784. He aided in obtaining the renewal of the charter of the bank of North America in 1780, which had been annulled by the Pennsylvania legislature in 1784. In 1787 he was a member of the convention which framed the federal constitution; and on Oct. 1, 178s, he was elected a member of the first United States senate. Ho declined the post of secretary of the treasury offered to him by Washington, and recommended Alexander Hamilton as a suitable incumbent. In partnership with Gouverneur Morris, in the spring of 1784, he sent to Canton the first American vessel that ever appeared in that port. In his old age he lost his fortune by land speculation, and during the latter years of his life was confined in prison for debt, Mr. Morris was an impressive public speaker and an able writer.