Samuel Morris

The Morris family of Philadelphia dates to the earliest days of Pennsylvania and played an important role throughout the colony’s development. The first of the family to arrive was Anthony Morris, a Quaker preacher born in London in 1654 who landed in New Jersey in 1682 or 1683 and moved to Philadelphia during 1683, the year after William Penn arrived on the ship Welcome. He was a judge and was mentioned in the 1691 charter of the city of Philadelphia.

Anthony’s great-grandson, Samuel Morris, a staunch supporter of the Revolutionary cause, and a signer of Continental Currency. Samuel Morris was born in Philadelphia in 1734 and died there in 1812. He was a leader in politics while a gentleman of society, serving in the legislature several times and on both the Committee of Safety and the Council of Safety; but also serving as the “governor” of the Schuylkill Fishing Company of the State in Schuylkill, a hunting and fishing club, where he was elected in 1776 and re-elected every year afterwards until his death. He was also president of the Gloucester Fox-Hunting Club for many years.

Samuel was most proud of his military service. He was named captain of the first troop of Philadelphia city cavalry, where more than 20 men from the fox-hunting club served amongst those under his command. The troop served as Washington’s bodyguard in 1776 and 1777, and fought in the battles of Trenton and Princeton (where Samuel’s brother Anthony was killed). Upon completion of their guard duty, Washington gave “his most sincere thanks to the captain, ”noting that although the troop was “composed of gentlemen of good fortune,” they had “shown a noble example of discipline and subordination, and in several actions have shown a spirit and bravery which will ever do honor to them, and will ever be gratefully remembered by me...”

The Quakers disowned Morris as a result of his military service but he still followed their beliefs and worshipped with them through the time of his death. In 1912, Harold Donaldson Eberleinand Horace Mather Lippincott wrote, “Captain Samuel Morris was a man of singularly amiable personality, and one of the best-known and best-beloved citizens of his generation.” Samuel Morris wrote a visionary letter to his cousin Cadwalader Morris in September 1775, seeing very early the significance and the steadfastness of the cause, worth quoting at length:

The resolutions of the Congress will be most sacredly kept, and should any one offer to break thro’ them, the popular Vengeance will be shown in an exemplary manner – this I mention to convince you that no Island British or Foreign will from this day be supplied with any commodities of this Country, until the present Controversy is ended. I am to the last degree distressed at the prospect that presents itself at the present Crisis; it is perhaps as important as ever was agitated, and big with consequences that may involve a great Empire in the most inextricable difficulties.… Upon this very day have a whole Continent shut up all their Trade and by this Step will Convince the World that they will Sacrifice (sic) everything in defense of the rights of Freemen – since the Creation of the World there has never been perhaps a more remarkable union in so large a Country and of so great a Number of People; by the lowest Calculations not less than three Millions – and is it to be supposed they will tamely surrender up their rights to any power on Earth – believe me they will not, and whatever you may hear of disunion do not attend to it as there is not one in a thousand in this Continent but will stake his Life in the Contest.

Samuel Morris was authorized by Congress to sign Continental Currency three times in 1775 and 1776, including the original authorization on July 25, 1775. He signed notes of the first five issues, beginning with the May 10, 1775 issue and ending with the July 22, 1776 issue. Notes bearing the signature of Samuel Morris are somewhat more rare than the average signature, despite the number of issues he signed.