Charles Morris papers 1801-1861
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Collection Scope and Content Note

The Charles Morris papers contain 66 letters, 2 documents, and an engraved portrait, spanning 1801-1861. The collection relates primarily to Commodore Charles Morris' naval activities and career. A few materials represent Morris' involvement in the War of 1812, but the papers primarily document his command at Portsmouth and Boston Navy Yards and his tenure as a navy commissioner.

The Correspondence series spans 1801 to 1851. Early letters to Morris contain routine orders and requests, frequently from various secretaries of the Navy, including several items written by Secretary Paul Hamilton. Included is an order assigning Morris to the USS Constitution , dated June 22, 1812, as well as another order instructing him not to intercept any unarmed British ships bound for Sable Island (November 11, 1812). Other War of 1812 items pertain to furloughs, promotions, and strategy. Also included are several letters by Morris to colleagues such as Henry Dearborn and John Orde Creighton, concerning mutual acquaintances, appointments, and naval activities.

A particularly important item in the collection is a 20-page letter of May 20, 1819, written by John Quincy Adams to Smith Thompson, secretary of the navy. In the letter, Adams provided instructions and objectives for a diplomatic mission to Venezuela and Argentina, led by Oliver Hazard Perry. He also discussed such topics as restitution for several American ships seized during the Venezuelan Revolution, Venezuelan piracy off the coast of Florida, and the involvement of Spain and other European powers in South American politics. The letter likely came into the possession of Morris after the death of Perry from yellow fever in August 1819; Morris took over for Perry as leader of the naval expedition soon after. Also pertaining to the Venezuelan expedition is a letter from Thompson to Perry, further explaining the goals of the mission, and providing instructions to Perry in regards to pirate and slave ships (June 1, 1819).

Another segment of the correspondence, 1828-1829, concerns the presentation of an urn to General Lafayette by the midshipman of the Brandywine . Included is a manuscript copy of a letter from Lafayette, thanking the men of the Brandywine and praising their patriotism (December 25, 1828). Later correspondence relates to naval business, such as appointments, courts martial, and invitations to events. In an additional letter dated July 17, 1834, John Quincy Adams expressed hope that Morris would find a position in the navy for a relative, Joseph Adams. The latest correspondence in the series pertains to the activities of Morris' children, particularly George A. Morris, and contains comments on foreign relations and routine naval matters.

The Memoir, Documents and Portrait series contains four items. A seven-page memoir written by Charles or Harriet Morris in 1847 provides an account of the life and naval service of their son, Charles W. Morris. In the first document, dated August 29, 1815, Attorney General Richard Rush recorded the trials of alleged pirates. The second document is undated and relates to a silver medal awarded to Charles Morris. Finally, the series contains an 1861 engraved portrait of John Quincy Adams. Published by Johnson & Fry of New York, the image was engraved from a painting by Alonzo Chappel.

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