ROBERT MORRIS - AUTOGRAPH LETTER SIGNED 01/01/1798 - HFSID 350490
Sale Price $4,462.50
Morris writes about impending financial ruin; a month later, he was sent to Prune Street Debtor's Prison.
Autograph Letter Signed: "Robert Morris", 3p, 7½x10. Philadelphia, 1798 January 1. To JohnNicholson, his partner in land speculation, Hills. Begins: "Dear Sir". In full: "I send herewith a Copy of Mr. Burds Official list of the Actions in which Geo. Eddy became Special Bail for me. I have marked those that are settled and amongst them those of Myers Musgrove & Ketland which you wrote me you had settled. Of these that remain I expect I can settle with Steinmetz and Newhold, but how the rest are to be managed I do not yet know, and shall be glad to receive your Sentiments with any information you can give thereon - How comes it to pass that I am in a more responsible situation in these cases than you are. If I had not entered Special Bail I must have been responsible to Jno Baker & he would have taken me instead of Geo Eddy doing it with Bail pieces, did You Keep close in time to have a return of Non est upon the CA sa's if you did that will account for it, but if you did not, I do not understand the matter not being "a Great Lawyer". I observe you apply Strong Epithets to Geo. Eddy and if he had Acted as you suppose, he would deserve them, but he did not sell me for a Consideration in Money. You know he is not at ease in his own affairs, and he looks up for help to his Friends and relations, and it was these that forced him to give me up. They swore they would withdraw their aid & support from him if he suffered My Debts to be fixed on him, and that he should go to Jail if He did not clear himself. The 30th was the last day as a Sine facias would have issued against him upon the Sheriffs return which was then to be made Thus far in palliation but the part of his Conduct which is really blameable (sic) is, that He did not come and give Me timely Notice how he was beset & what would be the probably Consequence, if he had done so, I might have had my choice to give him a sufficient indemnification, or to settle with the party, instead of that I was taken by Surprize, had not a Moment allowed me for Consideration but must inevitably have gone to Jail if Providence had not interposed & sent Mr. Sanson to save me from it. I was aware of the Consequence of paying Dunwoody it will operate powerfully upon others and probably be the means of sending me to Prune Street at last. Major Hopkins who was just now at my Door says he would rather be confined there than in his own House by far -". Docketed, likely by Nicholson, on verso. ROBERT MORRIS (1734-1806) wrote this letter the month before he was arrested and sent to Prune Street Debtors' Prison (February 16, 1798). Having become land rich and money poor through land speculation, he was desperately in need of funds. Attempting to obtain new information regarding his accounts, Morris wrote this letter to JOHN NICHOLSON (circa 1757-1800), his partner in several land speculation companies. Both men, in conjunction with another partner, James Greenleaf (1765-1843), owned and were developing land in the Federal City (Washington, D.C.). In 1794, Morris and Nicholson had formed the Asylum Company to sell land in Pennsylvania to foreign investors. Together with Greenleaf, they also formed The North American Land Company in 1795; their plan was to sell and improve six million acres of unsettled land located in Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Kentucky. Morris and Nicholson wanted to use the income derived from the sale of The North American Land Company stock to pay their creditors - including those from whom they had bought much of the Company's land. These ventures all failed; Morris could not sell his land or his company stock. Unable to borrow money to pay his creditors, he was placed in debtors' prison due to legal suits brought against him by the Bank of North America, GEORGE EDDY and Charles Eddy. Nicholson, who had been Comptroller of Pennsylvania (1782-1794), was arrested and sent to Prune Street in 1800; he died there in December of that year. Morris was forced to remain at Prune Street until August 1801, when he was released due to the enactment of the first Federal Bankruptcy Law (April 4, 1800). The Law allowed the assets of indebted merchants and brokers to be seized and sold in order to pay the bankrupt's debts. After his release from prison, however, Morris would live his remaining years in obscurity and poverty despite his earlier impressive achievements. The Philadelphia merchant and financier had been a delegate to the Continental Congress (1775-1778). Although voting against independence, which he considered premature, Morris worked diligently on military procurement, playing a key role in keeping George Washington's army supplied. He was U.S. Superintendent of Finance (1781-1784) under the Articles of Confederation, cutting expenses and raising revenue (often borrowing in his own name) to keep the new government solvent. Morris was also a delegate to the Constitutional Convention and was George Washington's first choice to be Secretary of the Treasury, declining the offer and serving instead in the U.S. Senate (1789-1795). In 1782, Morris founded the Bank of North America, the first private commercial bank in the United States - the same institution that brought a suit against him sixteen years later. Lightly creased with folds. Show through of ink. Chipped at right edge of first page. Overall, fine condition. Minor wearing on frame corners. Small chip at frame top edge. Framed to an overall size of 47¼x23¾.
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