Gubernatorial portrait of Morgan Lewis
|3rd Governor of New York|
July 1, 1804 - June 30, 1807
|Daniel D. Tompkins|
|New York State Attorney General|
November 8, 1791 - December 24, 1792
|Josiah Ogden Hoffman|
|Born||October 16, 1754|
New York City, Province of New York, British America
|Died||April 7, 1844 (aged 89)|
New York City, US
(m. 1779; died 1833)
|Relations||Maturin Livingston (son-in-law)|
|Children||Margret Lewis Livingston|
United States Army
|Years of service||1774-, 1812-1815|
Morgan Lewis (October 16, 1754 - April 7, 1844) was an American lawyer, politician, and military commander. The second son of Francis Lewis, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, Lewis fought in the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. He served in the New York State Assembly (1789, 1792) and the New York State Senate (1811-1814) and was New York State Attorney General (1791-1801) and governor of New York (1804-1807).
Morgan Lewis was born on October 16, 1754, of Welsh descent, the second son of Francis Lewis (1713-1802) and Elizabeth (née Annisley) Lewis (1715-1778). Lewis grew up in Elizabethtown, New Jersey, where he decided to dedicate himself to the ministry. However, based on his father's advice, he attended the College of New Jersey (now Princeton), graduating in 1773, and began to study law. He read law alongside John Jay. His studies were interrupted by military service during the American Revolutionary War. He was admitted to the bar in 1783.
From September 1, 1776, to the end of the war he was a colonel and the Quartermaster General for the Northern Department.
In 1774, he joined the American Revolution as a volunteer in the Continental Army. Lewis was then made a captain of a regiment of the New York militia. Once the 2nd New York militia regiment was organized, he was promoted to the rank of major. He was then appointed chief-of-staff to General Horatio Gates, with the rank of colonel, and accompanied him into Canada, and soon after congress appointed him quartermaster-general of the Northern Army. In 1775, he planned and executed the night attack on Stone Arabia, and was in command at the battle of Crown Point, where he was accompanied by New York Governor George Clinton. He was prominent throughout the campaign that ended with the surrender of John Burgoyne at Saratoga.
After the Revolution, Lewis completed his legal studies while living in Albany, New York, boarding at the riverside home of James Bloodgood. In 1779, the tax list showed him living there with personal property valued at $2,000, one of the city's highest assessments. Later, he qualified for a "bounty right" as a member of the city regiment of the Albany County Militia. During that time, he acquired some Albany property. He was elected to the New York State Assembly, 1789 and 1792, and the New York State Senate from 1811 to 1814. He was New York State Attorney General (December 24, 1791 - October 28, 1801) and later Justice and Chief Justice (October 28, 1801) of the Supreme Court of New York.
He served as governor of New York from 1804 to 1807, defeating Vice President Aaron Burr in the race to succeed future vice president George Clinton as governor. In the New York gubernatorial election, 1804, he was largely responsible for splitting the Jeffersonian Republican Party in New York into "Lewisites" (allies of Lewis) and the "Clintonians" (allies of New York Mayor DeWitt Clinton) with his combination of Lewisites (labeled "Quids" by the Clintonians) and Federalists.
During his tenure, the United States Military Academy at West Point was established, the state's militia system was restructured, and educational improvements were sanctioned. On April 30, 1807, he was defeated in his run for re-election by Daniel D. Tompkins, also a future vice president. Tompkins received 35,074 votes, and Morgan Lewis received 30,989 votes. He then returned home to Staatsburg, Dutchess County, New York, where he turned his attention to agriculture. Having given up the practice of law, Lewis established a cloth factory, and for several years devoted himself to manufacturing. The failure of a mercantile house to which his goods were assigned caused him to discontinue the business.
Prior to the War of 1812 Lewis declined the office of Secretary of War under President James Madison. Instead, he resumed his duties as Quartermaster General and served in western New York. He was commissioned as a brigadier general on April 3, 1812, and promoted to major general on March 2, 1813, as part of his service on the Niagara Frontier. He commanded the American forces at the Battle of Fort George. Although the British position was captured, Lewis ordered Colonel Winfield Scott to break off the pursuit of the defeated British troops. But for Lewis's over-caution, Scott might have been able to capture Major General John Vincent's entire division and greatly weaken the British defense of the Niagara Peninsula. Later, Lewis was appointed as commander of upstate New York. He procured the release of the American prisoners in Canada, advancing from his private fortune the money for its accomplishment, and also rewarding his own tenants who had served in or sent sons to the war, by allowing them free rent for the time they served in the army. After the war, Lewis was discharged from the Army on June 15, 1815.
Lewis was a presidential elector in the presidential election of 1828. Lewis was a Freemason, and served as Grand Master in the Grand Lodge of New York from 1830-1843. From 1832 to 1835 he was the President of the Historical Society of New York. Lewis was an original member of the New York Society of the Cincinnati and served as the Society's President General from 1839 to 1844. He also helped to found New York University in New York City.
In 1779, he married Gertrude Livingston (1757-1833), the daughter of Margaret Beekman and Judge Robert Livingston. They lived in Rhinebeck and then in Hyde Park in Dutchess County, New York. In 1790, his Rhinebeck household was served by eight slaves. Together, Morgan and Gertrude had:
In 1792, Lewis, purchased an estate covering of about 334 acres (135 ha) in Staatsburg, New York ,and commissioned the construction of a colonial-style house. In the summer of 1824, on his visit to the United States, the Marquis de Lafayette dined there on his way upriver to visit Lewis' brother-in-law, Chancellor Livingston.
In 1832, the house was destroyed by a fire, said to be an act of arson committed by disgruntled tenant farmers. After the fire, Morgan Lewis and his wife immediately replaced the structure with a Greek Revival mansion with 25 rooms. Lewis died in New York City April 7, 1844. The house was inherited in 1844 by Morgan Lewis's daughter Margaret and her husband Maturin Livingston.
The following communities have been named in Lewis' honor:
|Party political offices|
| Democratic-Republican nominee for
Governor of New York
Daniel D. Tompkins
| New York Attorney General
| Governor of New York
Daniel D. Tompkins
| Chancellor of the University of the State of New York
Daniel D. Tompkins
| Oldest living United States governor
| Oldest United States governor ever
|Non-profit organization positions|
| President General of the Society of the Cincinnati