MORRIS, Staats Long (1728-1800), of Huntly Lodge and Knaperna, Aberdeen.
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Family and Education
b. 27 Aug. 1728, 2nd s. of Lewis Morris, judge of Admiralty Court, of Morrisania, New York by his 1st w. Tryntie, or Catherine, da. of Dr. Samuel Staats, surgeon, of New York; nephew of Robert Hunter Morris, c.j. of New Jersey and gov. of Pennsylvania; bro. of Lewis and Richard, and half-bro. of Gouverneur Morris, eminent revolutionary leaders. educ. Yale 1743-6.1m. (1) 25 Mar. 1756, Catherine (d. 16 Dec. 1779), da. of William, 2nd Earl of Aberdeen [S], wid. of Cosmo George, 3rd Duke of Gordon [S], mother of Lords William and George Gordon, s.p.; (2) 23 Dec. 1780, Elizabeth, da. of John Urquhart of Craigston, Aberdeen, s.p.
Lt. Independent Co. N.Y. 1748; capt.-lt. 1751; capt. 50 Ft. 1755; capt. 36 Ft. May 1756; lt.-col. 89 Ft. Oct. 1759; brig.-gen. (local in E.I.) 1763; half-pay 1765; col. 1772; maj.-gen. 1777; col. 61 Ft. 1778- d.; lt.-gen. 1782; gen. 1796; gov. Quebec Dec. 1797- d.
Morris belonged to a wealthy colonial family, long prominent in the affairs of New York and New Jersey. He served in the French and Indian war under General William Shirley, governor of Massachusetts, who in December 1755 sent him to England with despatches.2 This brief visit radically altered Morris’s career. On 25 Mar. 1756 he married the eccentric Dowager Duchess of Gordon, mother of six children and ten years his senior, who, widowed in 1752, had for some time been seeking a personable young husband.3 After a brief visit to America, he returned to England in November 1757 and established himself at Gordon Castle as the Duchess’s consort.4‘He conducted himself in this new exaltation’, wrote the English Chronicle in 1781, ‘with so much moderation, affability, and friendship, that the family soon forgot the degradation the Duchess had been guilty of by such a connexion, and received her spouse into their perfect favour and esteem.’
In 1759 the Duchess, anxious to advance her husband’s military career and her son’s political interest, proposed to raise a Highland regiment under Morris’s command.5 The offer was accepted and Morris was allowed to name his own officers. Major George Scott wrote to Charles Townshend, 9 Nov. 1759, from Huntly Lodge:6
Colonel Morris seems to be much beloved everywhere hereabouts and I make no doubt but the Duchess of Gordon could complete the battalion ... and not stop a single plough. The plan he goes upon is perfectly disinterested and his having the commissions to give himself, which likewise have half pay in case of a reduction, ... has no small effect.
But when the regiment was nearly complete the Duchess was highly incensed to discover that its destination was India.7 Morris himself did not leave England until April 1762; and on 21 Jan. 1763, as commander of the troops in Bombay, wrote to Bute informing him of the capture of Manila.8 He sailed for home in December 1763.
When the Duke of Gordon came of age (1764) and married (1767), Morris’s status altered and his interest in America revived. In 1765 he applied for land grants in East Florida, Nova Scotia and Quebec, and in 1766 he and his friend Henry Drummond each received 10,000 acres in Canada.9 In 1768 he went to America with his wife, visited Philadelphia, Albany, and the Mohawk valley in February 1769, apparently with the intention of purchasing land from Sir William Johnson.10 Returning to Scotland in the summer of 1769, he established himself with his wife at Huntly Lodge, and remained on good terms with the young Duke, with whose support he was brought into Parliament in 1774 for Elgin Burghs.
As the brother of leading American ‘patriots’ Morris’s position in Parliament was a delicate one, but he remained a consistent supporter of Administration. His only reported speech was made on 7 Dec. 1775, when, on Hartley’s motion to stop hostilities, the debate turned on the numbers of troops engaged at Bunker Hill. Morris gave figures ‘from the best intelligence’, showing that the British were outnumbered 2 to 1.11 Anxious for preferment, but reputedly averse to service in America, he applied in 1777 on George Monson’s death for his regiment in the East Indies. North wrote to the King:
Lord North begs leave to bear testimony to Colonel Morris’s most constant, uniform, zealous and disinterested support of Government ever since he has been in the House of Commons.
His application was unsuccessful, but shortly afterwards he was appointed to the 61 Foot. Listed ‘pro, absent’ on the contractors bill, 12 Feb. 1779, he was also absent from the division on Keppel, 3 Mar. After that division the King demanded that North should insist upon a better attendance from placemen and officers, and got Amherst to write at once to Morris. The summons was effective. He was listed by Sandwich among the friends who would certainly be in the House on 8 Mar. for Fox’s motion of censure on the Admiralty.12 Thereafter he voted with Administration in every recorded division except on the abolition of the Board of Trade, 13 Mar., when he was again absent.
At the general election of 1780 he was strongly opposed in his burghs by General James Grant, whose petition against his return was eventually dropped. Morris voted for Shelburne’s peace preliminaries, 18 Feb. 1783; although a supporter of the Coalition, he did not vote on Fox’s East India bill. Robinson listed him as against Pitt in mid-December, but in January 1784, after the change of Administration, as ‘pro’.13 In March Stockdale marked him ‘Administration’. In his pre-election lists Robinson wrote about Elgin Burghs:
General Morris will come in again it is apprehended or, Mr. Dundas says, General Grant, and in a future Parliament with.
The seat was, however, won by William Adam, and Morris does not appear to have sought to re-enter Parliament.
After his Duchess’s death, and his remarriage in 1780, Morris’s relations with the Duke of Gordon deteriorated, and by 1788-9 he was said to be ‘at variance with the Duke’, although still on good terms with the Duchess and her family in 1790.14 He and his wife spent much time abroad, wintering at Avignon and Spa, and when in Britain made their home in London.15 On the death of his stepmother in 1786, Morris inherited the family home, Morrisania (partly destroyed by British troops during the American war), but, having no desire to live in America, sold it to his half-brother, Gouverneur.
In 1797 he was appointed governor of Quebec, where he died 2 Apr. 1800.
Ref Volumes: 1754-1790
Author: Edith Lady Haden-Guest
- 1. G. B. Dexter, Graduates of Yale, ii. 82-85; Pprs. of Gov. Lewis Morris (N.J. Hist. Soc.), 189-90.
- 2. C. H. Lincoln, Corresp. Wm. Shirley, ii. 130-1, 369.
- 3. Walpole to John Chute, 14 May 1754.
- 4. W. A. Duer, Life of Ld. Stirling, 12-13.
- 5. J. M. Bulloch, Territorial Soldiering in N.E. Scotland, 4.
- 6. Buccleuch mss.
- 7. Add. 32903, ff. 57-58, 274.
- 8. Life of Ld. Stirling, 56; Bute mss.
- 9. APC Col. Unbound Pprs. no. 662; 1745-66, p. 820.
- 10. Burd Pprs. ed. Walker, 27; Sir W. Johnson Pprs. vi. 618-19; vii. 537; viii. 194-7.
- 11. Almon, iii. 271.
- 12. Fortescue, iii. 411, 484; iv. 299, 304.
- 13. Laprade, 54, 102.
- 14. Adam, Pol. State of Scotland, 1; A. C. Morris, Diary Letters of Gouverneur Morris, i. 340, 343.
- 15. Add. 35534, f. 4.