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Surveyed to Samuel Miles, by War- :
rant, 4th May, 1684.
396 CHESNUT STREET.
398 : 11 CHESNUT STREET: 50
3, page 361.
No. 4.--Twenty-ninth of January, 1706. Recorded ther, I believe this old plan has remained time immemoin the Rolls Office, Philadelphia. Patent book A. vol. rial in the office of the Surveyor General, and has always
been referred to as an authentic paper. Patent from Edward Shippen, Griffith Owen, Thomas No. 4.- This patent is now in my possession, and I Story, and James Logan, Proprietary Commissioners to consider it as the most powerful evidence of the city's the Mayor and Commonalty of the city of Philadelphia. title to the public squares; it bears date more than nine. Reciting, “That whereas upon an application made ty years ago, when William Penn the founder of the from the Mayor and Commonalty of the city of Phila- province was alive. It is to be considered in a legal delphia in the said province, to my present Commis- point of view, as the declaration of William Penn, sioners of property or the proprietary deputies herein | (contained in one of his most solemn acts of authority, after named, that they would grant some convenient to wit, a patent under the great seal) that at the original piece of ground for a common and public burying plotting of the city, there were certain squares intended place for all strangers or others who might not so con- for public use, and that the square described in the paveniently be laid in any of the particular inclosures ap- tent was one of them. propriated by certain religious societies for that purpose. It was my intention to have taken time and made My said commissioners, by their warrant under their greater researches in the several public offices; but unhands and seal of the province, bearing date the twenty- derstanding from some Members of the Common Couneighth day of the eleventh month last past, required the cil, that they were desirous of acting upon the subject, Surveyor to the said city, to lay out for the use aforc- I can only add to the foregoing statement, that I believe said, a certain square therein mentioned," being one of several very ancient surveys may be found, calling for those squares which at the original plotting of the said city the public square in the centre of the city as a boundary; were intended for public uses,” which accordingly was but I have not yet found that there are any such surveys surveyed and laid out the fifth day of the Fourth month referring in the same manner to either of the squares on last past, under the bounds and limits here following, the north or south sides. that is to say, a certain square of ground, being in I am of opinion, that the right of the city to the northbreadth five hundred foot, and in length also five hun- east and other squares is good, and may be established dred foot, bounded on the north with Walnut street, on in a Court of Justice. The documents above referred the east with Sixth street from the river Delaware, on to, make a sufficient foundation whereon a jury at this the south with a street forty foot in breadth, and on the day (upon legal principles) ought to presume, that west with another street likewise of the said breadth of there was an ancient proprietary grant for those squares forty foot. And whereas the said Mayor and Common to the use of the citizens of Philadelphia, which, from alty' have requested I would confirm the same to them the accidents of time, is now lost. And the same docuby patent, know ye, that I, favoring the said request, ments, I think, will amount to a covenant or agreement and for better accommodating the said city as aforesaid, on the part of the first proprietor, to stand seised of I have thought fit to grant, and do by these presents for those squares for the use of the citizens of Philadelphia. me, my heirs and successors, give, grant, release and The commonwealth, as it now represents the propriconfirm to the Mayor and Commonalty now being and etary rights, must (if the legal estate to those squares is to their successors for ever, all that, the said piece or vested in it,) hold the same for the use of the citizens, square of ground, bounded and limited as above ex- as the proprietors did. pressed, together with all ways, waters, casements, li- I give this opinion, with the exception as to that part berties, profits, commodities, and appurtenances to the of the north-east square within the limits of the patent said piece or square of ground or to any part or parcel from John Penn of the fourteenth of December, 1763. thereof belonging, or in any wise appertaining, to have If the patentees can show that they are fair purchasers, and to hold the said piece of ground and premises here for a valuable consideration, without notice of the by granted, with the appurtenances, to the said Mayor rights of the citizens; for such part it may be very and Commonalty, and their successors for ever, to the doubtful whether or not the possession can be recoveronly uses herein after following, and to no other use ed from them. whatsoever; that is to say, for a common and public bu
ALEXANDER WILCOCKS, Recorder. rying place for the service of the city of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, June 5th, 1797. for interring thc bodies of all manner of deceased persons whatsoever, whom there shall be occasion to lay SKETCH OF THE LIFE OF ROBERT MORRIS. therein, and for the further improvement of the said bu
BY JAMES MEASE, M. D. rying place, I do hereby grant full and free liberty to Published originally in the Philadelphia edition of the the Mayor and Commonalty and their successors, to in
Edinburg Encyclopædia. close, fence, plant, build, or by any other ways or means whatsoever, to improve the aforesaid piece of ground Robert Morris was the son of a respectable merchant hereby granted and premises as the said Mayor and of Liverpool, who had for some years been extensively Conimonalty or their successors from time to time shall concerned in the American trade; and while a boy, he see convenient."
was brought by his father to this country, in which it apOBSERVATIONS.
pears he intended to settle. During the time that he Nos. 1, 2, 3.— This plan of the city has been generally was pursuing his education in Philadelphia, he unfortuconsidered as the work of Thomas Holme, and has been nately lost his father, in consequence of a wound receiv. received as evidence in the Supreme Court on several cd from the wad of a gun, which was discharged as a trials. Thomas Holme was the first Surveyor-General compliment by the captain of a ship consigned to him, in Pennsylvania, and arrived here, probably from Eng- that had just arrived at Oxford, the place of his residence, land, in the summer, 1683.
on the eastern shore of tire Chesapeake Bay; and he This plan of the city wherein five public squares are was thus left an orphan at the age of fifteen years. In laid down, may be considered as an authentic document, conformity with the intentions of his parent, he was bred and the most ancient (known) piece of evidence of to commerce, and served a regular apprenticeship in the the city's right to the squares. This plan must have counting house of the late Mr. Charles Willing, at that been inade by Thomas Holme, Surveyor-General, from time one of the first merchants of Philadelphia. A year an actual survey of thc city previously made by him; and or two after the expiration of the term for which he had that it was made by the order of William Penn, the evic engaged himself, he entered into partnership with Mr. dence is very strong, as it appcars from the letter above Thomas Willing. This connection, which was formed referred to and other evidence, that he was then in this in 1754, continued for the long period of thirty-nine country, and in his letter refers to a Plan, which, in all years, not having been dissolved until 1793. Previously human probability, was the one now spoken of. Fur-lio the commencement of the American war, it was, with
out doubt, more extensively engaged in commerce, than During the rapid march of Cornwallis through New any other house in Philadelphia.
Jersey, in pursuit of the American army, Congress, as a of the events of his youth we know little. The fact ed Mr. Morris to remain as long as possible in Philadel
measure of security, removed to Baltimore, and requestjust mentioned proves, that although early deprived of the benefit of parental counsel, he acted with fidelity, phia, to forward expresses to them from General Washand gained the good will of a discerning and wealthy ington. The daily expectation of the arrival of the
enemy in the city, induced Mr. Morris to remove his fa. young friend, the son of his master. The following anecdote will show his early activity in business, and anxiety intiinate friend, who had made up his mind to stay in
mily to the country; while he took up his abode with any to promote the interests of his friend. During the ab- the city at every hazard. At this time, December 1776, sence of Mr. Willing at his country place near Frank. The received a letter from General Washington, who then ford, a vessel arrived at Philadelphia, either consigned to him, or that brought letters, giving intelligence of the lay with his army at the place now
called New Hope, sudden rise of four at the port she had left. Mr. Mor- above Trenton, expressing the utmost anxiety for the ris instantly engaged all that he could contract for, on supply of specie, to enable him to obtain such intelliaccount of Mr. Willing, who, on his return to the city lion of the enemy on the opposite shore, as would au
sence of the movements, and precise position and silvanext day, had to defend his young friend from the com- thorise him to act offensively. The importance of the plaints of some merchants, that he had raised the price occasion induced the General to send the letter by a con. of four. An appeal, however, from Mr. Willing to their fidential messenger. The case was almost hopeless own probable line of conduct
, in case of their having from the general Hight of the citizens: but a trial must first received the news, silenced their complaints.
be made, and Mr. M. luckily procured the cash as a perFew men in the American colonies were more alive to sonal loan, from a member of the Society of Friends, the gradual encroachment of the British government whom he met, when in the greatest possible anxiety of upon the liberties of the people, and none more ready to mind, he was walking about the city, reflecting on the remonstrate against them, than Mr. Morris. His signa- most likely means or person, by which, or from whom ture on the part of his mercantile house to the non-im- it was to be obtained. This prompt and timely compliportation agreement, as respected England, which was ance with the demand, enabled General Washington to entered into by the merchants of Philadelphia in the gain the signal victory at Trenton over the savage Hesyear 1765, while it evinced the consistency of his prin- sians; a victory which, exclusively of the benefits dericiples and conduct, at the same time was expressive of ved from its diminishing the numerical force of the enea willingness to unite with them in showing their deter- my, by nearly one thousand, was signally important in mination to prefer a sacrifice of private interest to the its influence, by encouraging the patriots, and checking continuance of an intercourse, which would add to the the hopes of the enemies of our cause; and by destroyrevenue of the government that oppressed them. The ing the impression which the reputed prowess of the extensive mercantile concerns with England of Mr. Mor- conquered foe, and the experience of their ferocity over ris's house, and the large importations of her manufac. the unprotected and defenceless, had made upon the tures and colonial produce by it, must have made this people. Upon another occasion, he became responsisacrifice considerable. His uniform conduct on the sub- ble for a quantity of lead, which had been most urgently ject of the relative connexion between England and the required for the army, and which most providentially Colonies, his high standing in society, and general intel. arrived at the time when greatly wanted.f At a more ligence, naturally pointed him out as a fit representative advanced stage of the war, when pressing distress in the of Pennsylvania in the national councils, assembled on army had driven codigress and the commander in chief the approach of the political storm; and he was accord almost to desperation, and a part of the troops to mutiingly appointed by the legislature of Pennsylvania, in ny; he supplied the army with four or five thousand bare November 1775, one of the delegates to the second con- rels of four, upon his private credit; and on a promise gress that met at Philadelphia. A few weeks after he to that effect, persuaded a member to withdraw an inhad taken his seat, he was added to the secret commit- tended motion to sanction a procedure which, although tee of that body, which had been formed by a resolve of common in Europe, would have had a very injurious efthe preceding congress and whose duty was “to contract fect upon the cause of the country: this was to authorfor the importation of arms, ammunition, sulphur, and ize General Washington to seize all the provisions that saltpetre, and to export produce on the public account could be found within a circle of twenty miles of his to pay for the same." He was also appointed a member camp. While U. S. financier, his notes constituted, of the committee for fitting out a naval armament, and for large transactions, part of the circulating medium. specially commissioned to negociate bills of exchange Many other similar instances occurred of this patriotic for congress; to borrow money for the marine commit- interposition of his own personal responsibility for suptee, and to manage the fiscal concerns of congress upon plies, which could not otherwise have been obtained. other occasions. Independently of bis enthusiastic zeal In the first year in which he served as a representain the cause of his country, of bis capacity for business, tive in congress, he signed the memorable parchment and kuowledge of the subjects committed to him, or bis containing the Declaration that forever separated us from talents for managing pecuniary concerns, he was parti. England, and thus pledged himself to join heart anil cularly fitted for such services; as the commercial credit hand with the destinies of his country, while some of he had established among his fellow citizens probably his colleagues, who possessed less firmness, drew back stood higher than that of any other man in the commu- and retired from the contest. He was thrice successively nity, and of this he did not hesitate to avail himself elected to Congress, in 1776, 77, and '78. whenever the public necessities required such an evi. The exertion of his talents in the public councils, the dence of his patriotism. These occasions were neither use of his credit in procuring supplies at home, of his few nor trifling. One of the few remaining prominent personal labour as special agent, or congressional commen of the revolution, and who filled an important and mittee-man, and of those in his pay, in procuring others most confidential station in the department of war, bears from abroad, were not the only means employed by him testimony that Mr. Morris frequenily obtained pecuniary in aiding the cause in which he had embarked. The and other supplies, which were most pressingly required free and public expression of his sentiments upon all for the service, on his own responsibility, and apparently upon his own account, when, from the known state of * The messenger was captain Howell, afterwards for the public treasury, they could not have been procured several years Governor of New Jersey. for the government
† See particulars related by Judge Peters, in Garden. Among several facts in point, the following may be Debates on the renewal of the charter of the Bank mentioned:
of North America, p. 49. Philadelphia, 1786. VOL. II.
occasions, in the almost daily and nightly meetings of on the part of De Grasse, produced an agitation in the the zealous; in the interchange of friendly intercourse high minded and honourable chief, which those who with his fellow citizens, and the confident tone of ulti- witnessed it “can never forget.” Most fortunately Mr. mate success which he supported, served to rouse the Morris, and Mr. Peters, the secretary of war, had arrived desponding, to fix the wavering, and confirm the brave. the day before, as a committee from Congress, to assist Besides, the extensive commercial and private corres- the general in his preparations for the attack on New pondence which he maintained with England, furnished York, and the embarrassing situation of affairs being laid him withi early intelligence of all the public measures before them, they gave sucii consolation ani promises of resolved on by the British government, the debates in aid, each in his particular departır.ent, as to encourage parliainent, and with much private information of im- his hopes, and calm his mind. The utmost secrecy was portance to this country. These letters he read to a enjoined on both, and so faithfully observed, that the sew select mercantile friends, who regularly met in the first intelligence congress had of the moveient of the insurance room at the Merchants' Coffee house, and army, was the march of the troops, on the third of Gepthrough them the intelligence they contained was diffu- tember, through Philadelphia. It was not, however, sed among the citizens, and thus kept alive the spirit of until it had passed the city 15 miles, that Mr. M. was opposition, made them acquainted with the gradual pro- relieved from his anxiety respecting his promise to Gen. gress of hostile movements, and convinced them how
Washington of a competent pecuniary supply. to effect little was to be expected from the government in respect the transportation of the army. Iis object, for this to the alleviation of the oppression and hardships against end, was the loan of the French military chest, and the which the colonies had for a long time most humbly, proposition was made to the French minister Luzerne, earnestly, and eloquently remonstrated. This practice, who refuse«l in the most positive manner to assent. His which began previously to the suspension of the inter- persuasive talents succeeded in part with count Rochamcourse beiween the two countries, he continued during beau, and at Chester, whither Mr. Norris, had gone in the war: and through the medium of Friends, on the company with General Washington, it was obtained. It continent, especially in France and Holland, he received is probable that the joy naturally felt on meeting at that for a time the despatches which had formerly come di- place an express from the marquis Fayette, announcing rect from England.
the arrival of count De Grasse in the Chesapeake, with The increasing and clamorous wants of the army, par- an assurance from Mr. Morris that our army could not ticularly for provisions, and the alarming letter written move without funds, hastened the negotiation of this by the comniander in chief to congress on the subject, fortunate loan. on being communicated to Mr. Morris, induced him to In the year 1781, Mr. Morris was appointed by Conpropose to raise an immediate fund to purchase supplies, gress“superintendant of tinance," an office then for the by the formation of a paper money bank; and to estab. first time established. This appointment was unanimous. lislı conficience in it with the public, he also proposed a Indeed, it is highly probable, that no other man in the subscription among the citizens in the form of bonds, country would have been competent to the task of maobliging them to pay, if it should become necessary, in naging such great concerns as it involved; for none posgold and silver, the amounts annexed to their names, to sessed, like himself, the happy expedient of raising supfulfil the engagements of the bank. Mr. Morris headed plies, or dese vedly enjoyed more of the public contithe list with a subscription of 10,0001.; others followed, dence. As the establishment of the office of finance, to the amount of 300,0001. The directors were autho- and the appointment of Mr. Morris to fill it, form an rised to borrow money on the credit of the bank, and to epoch in the history of the United States, and in the life grant special notes, bearing interest at six per cent. The of that officer, it merits particular notice. credit thus given to the bank effected the object intend
It is well known that the want of a sufficient quantity ed, and the institution was continued until the Bank of of the precious metals in the country, for a circulating North America went into operation, in the succeeding medium, and the absolute necessity of some substitute year. * It was probably on this occasion, that he pur to carry on the war, induced congress, from time to chased the four or five thousand barrels of flour above time, to issue paper bills of credit to an immense amount. mentioned, on his own credit, for the army, before the For a time, the enthusiastic zeal and public spirit of the funds could be collected to pay for it.t
people induced them to receive these bills as equal to On the occasion of the important, and as regarded Solid cash at will, and no fund was provided for their re
goki and silver; but, as they were not convertible into the fate of the Union, the decisive measure of the attack on Cornwallis, the energy, perseverance, and finan. demption, depreciation followed, as a necessary result, cial talents of Mr. Morris were eminently conspicuous and with it the loss of public credit. “In the beginning By previous agreement, the French army, under count lions and a half in arrears, and the greater part of the
of the year 1781, the treasury was more than two milRochambeau, and the French fleet under De Barras, debt was of such a nature, that the payment could not with that expected to arrive under De Grasse from the be avoided, nor even delayed: and therefore Dr. FrankWest Indies, were to assist the American army in an at: lin, then our minister in France, was under the necessity tack upon New York, the strong hold of the British. At that time, the American army lay at Philipsburg on York of ordering back from Amsterdam monies which had island, waiting for the fleet under count de Grasse, who becn sent thither for the purpose of being shipped to changed the destination of his squadron, and entered the America, If he had not taken this step, the bills of exChesapeake bay. The communication of this occur
change drawn by order of congress must have been prorence, by one or other of the two first named command tested," and a vital stab thereby given to the credit of ers, inclucer an immediate change of measures, and it lic as well as private distress existed; “public credit bad
the government in Europe. At home, the greatest pubwas determined by General Washington if possible to proceed to the south; but the want of means to move gone to wreck, and the enemy built their most sanguine the army, was a serious difficulty; and this consideration the treasury was so much in arrears to the servants in
hopes of overcoming us upon this circumstance: with the disappointment of his long settled plans and arrangements, and in the breach of a positive engagcinent payment, perform their duties, but must have gone to
the public ofices, that many of them could not, without
gaol for debts they had contracted to enable them to Of ninety-six subscribers who gave their bonds, five live.” To so low an ebb was the public treasury reduonly are alive, viz. Charles Thompson, Thomas Leiper, cec, that some of the members of the board of war deWm. Hall, John Donaldson, and John Mease. For the clared to Mr. Morris, they had not the means of sending original list, and account of the bank, see the Pennsyi. vania Packet for June, 1781.
* Debates on the renewal of the charter of the Bank † Debates on the Bank of North Amcrica. p. 49. of Noith America p. 49.
an express to the army.* The pressing distress for pro- and never did any one more faithfully discharge the vavision among the troops at the time, has already been rious complicated trusts with greater despatch, economentioned. The paper bills of credit were sunk so low my, or credit, than the subject of this sketch. The dein value, as to require a burthensome mass of them to tails of his management of the office of finance may be pay for an article of clothing. But the face of things seen in the volume which he published in the year 1785.* was soon changed. One of the first good effects per- It is well worth the inspection of every American. The ceived, was the appreciationt of the paper money; “this preface, in particular, should be read attentively, as he was raised from the low state of six for one, to that of will from it form some idea of the state of public affairs, two for one, and it would have been brought nearly, if as to money, at the time; of the difficulties attending not entirely to par, had not some measures intervened, the revolutionary struggle on that account, and the means which, though well meant, were not judicious." The by which our independence was secured, or greatly proplan he adopted was, “to make all his negotiations by moted, and for the enjoyment of which he ought never selling bills of exchange for paper money, and after to cease to be thankful. wards paying it at a smaller rate of depreciation than The establishment of the Bank of North America that by which it was received; and at each successive forms a prominent item in the administration of Mr. operation the rate was lowered, by accepting it on the Morris. The knowledge which he had acquired of the same terms for new bills of exchange, at which it had principles of banking, and of the advantages resulting to been previously paid. It was never applied to the pur- a commercial community from a well regulated bank of chase of specific supplies, because it had been checked discount and deposit, in enabling merchants to antici. in the progress towards par, and therefore, if it had pate their funds in cases of exigency, or of occasions of been paid out in any quantity from the treasury, those fering well grounded schemes of speculation,t rendered who received it would have suffered by the consequent a hint on the subject of the importance of a bank to the depreciation.
government enough; and he accordingly adopted it A slight reflection will show the arduous nature of the with warmth. Such an institution had been previously duties which he undertook to discharge.
suggested, and as already said, an attempt at one, al. In old organized governments, where a regular rou. though with paper money, but backed by the bonds of tine of the department has been long established, and responsible men, had been made the preceding year. the details, as it were brought to perfection, by gradual | The greater facilities which one with a specie capital improvement, derived from the experience and talents promised, in enabling the government to anticipate its of successive officers, little difficulty is experienced by revenue, and to increase the quantity of circulating methe new incumbent in continuing the customary train of dium, and promote trade, were forcibly impressed on operations. Simple honesty, attention to duty, and a his inind, and induced him to propose it to Congress. In careful progress in the path previously pointed out, are May, 1781, he presented his plan, which was approved all the requisites; but the state of public aflairs, and es- by that body. Subscriptions were opened shortly after; pecially in the fiscal departments of the United States at but, in the following November, when the directors the time alluded to, furnished none of these helps.-- were elected, “not two hundred out of a thousand had Every thing was in the greatest confusion; and a new been subscribed, and it was some time after the business system of accounts was not only required to be devised, of the bank was fairly commenced, before the sum rebut the means of supplying the numerous and pressing ceived upon all the subscriptions amounted to $70,000.” wants of the public service to be discovered, and atten. Mr. Morris, no doubt, became sensible that such a capition paid to those wants. The task would have appalled tal would go but a little way in aiding him in his finanany common man; but the natural talents of Mr. Mor- cial operations for government, and at the same time acris
, together with his experience and habits of despatch, commodate the trading part of the community, He derived from his extensive commercial concerns for a therefore subscribed $250,000 of the $300,000, (which long series of years, and an uncommon readiness, great remained of the money received from France,) to the assiduity and method in business, with decision of cha- stock of the bank, on the public account: $450,000 had racter, enabled him to surmount all the difficulties that been brought from France, and lodged in the bank, lay in his way. An inspection of an official statement of and he “had determined, from the moment of its arrival, his accounts, will at once show the serious nature of the to subscribe, on behalf of the United States, for those multifarious duties attached to the office, and the pres- shares that remained vacant; but such was the amount sure of his engagements: but an opportunity of so do- of the public expenditures, that notwithstanding the ut. ing, even if wished for, can be had by few. Some idea most care and caution to keep this money, nearly one may be formed of them, when it is known, that he was half of the sum was exhausted before the institution required "to examine into the state of the public debts, could be organized."* It was principally on this fund expenditures, and revenue; to digest and report plans that the operations of the institution were commenced; for improving and regulating the finances; and for es- and before the last day of March, the public obtained a tablishing order and economy in the expenditure of loan of $300,000 being the total amount of their then ca. public money." To him was likewise committed the pital: 'This loan was shortly after increased to $400,000. disposition, management, and disbursement of all the Considerable facilities were also obtained by discounting loans received from the government of France, and va- the notes of individuals, and thereby anticipating the rerious private persons in that country and Holland; the ceipts of public money; besides which, the persons who sums of money received from the different states; and of the public funds for every possible source of expense * A statement of the accounts of the United States of for the support of government, civil, military, and naval; America during the administration of the superintendant the procuring supplies of every description for the army of finance, commencing February, 1781, ending Nov. and navy; the entire management and direction of the 1784. public sbips of war; the payment of all foreign debts;
† Mr. Morris stated, in his speech on the renewal of and the correspondence with our ministers at European the charter of the Bank of North America, that before courts, on subjects of finance. In short, the whole bur: the American war, hc “had laid the foundation of a then of the money operations of government was laid bank, and established a credit in Europe for the purupon him. No man ever had more numerous concerns
pose. From the execution of the design, he was pre. committed to his charge, and few to a greater amount; fented only by the revolution.” Debates, p. 37. Debates on the renewal of the charter of the Bank
* Debates on Bank, p. 48. of North America. p. 47.
+ The sum total brought into the public treasury, † This word appears to have been coined during the from the several states, not amounting to $30,000 upon revolution, and used as the opposite of depreciation. the last day of June.