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The Morris family of Tintern and Piercefield in south Wales. 
Riven by the Civil Wars of the 17th century, the family was to leave its memorials in Wales and in distant America.

In Wales In America
Three brothers, Lewis, William and Richard  Morris were of Tintern in Monmouthshire. William's son John took part in the Parliamentary expedition to Barbados in 1652.  The Morris family of Tintern had been aggrieved by the actions of King Charles I. Lewis Morris raised a regiment for Parliament in which his brother Richard also served. In 1660 they left for Barbados and afterwards America . 
(For the exploits of another Monmouthshire man who left for the West Indies, see our note on Captain Henry Morgan, the buccaneer.) Lewis was granted 3,540 acres in new Jersey and set about founding an iron works. (Iron production had been a tradition in the Tintern area.)
From John descended Col. Valentine Morris who served in the Island of St. Vincent. He retired to Wales and bought the Piercefield estate in 1736.  Richard Morris "bought" from the Indians 3,000 acres near Harlem. He was to die in 1673 but his son became Judge of the New Jersey Superior Court and a member of the Council.
Col. Morris carried out modest improvements but his son, another Valentine, made the estate famous.  From Lewis Morris descended the Lewis Morris who was Governor of New Jersey from 1738. 
Valentine, developed the estate and created the clifftop walks which still attract those in search of the picturesque.  The Neoclassical house was, however, the work of later owners, George Smith of Durham and Col. Mark Wood.  His son and grandson in turn became Chief Justice of New York and New Jersey.
"He lived in a style of princely, rather than private, magnificence ...". However, Valentine's inherited estates in the West Indies became badly managed and subject to the vagaries of the seasons. His income declined and he seemed to have no aptitude for business.  Another grandson, (also Lewis) signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776. "Even as he held the pen he knew that a large British army had landed a mile or two from his estate ... the whole property was laid waste".
In 1771 Valentine incurred heavy expenses when he contested the parliamentary seat of Monmouthshire. He lost to John Morgan of the famous Tredegar family and was soon forced to leave his beloved Piercefield for the West Indies. In 1777, Lewis resigned his seat in Congress in favour of his half brother Gouverneur Morris and later became major-general of the State Militia.
Valentine became Lieutenant Governor of St. Vincent's. He developed the island with great success, founded a second Piercefield and was made Governor in Chief.  A full brother, Staats Long Morris, was born in Morrisiana, New York in 1728 and ultimately became a brigadier-general in the British Army. He married the somewhat eccentric Duchess of Gordon.
Just as fortune seemed to smile on him, disaster struck. The French took St. Vincent and Valentine had spent so much on its defences that he was now reduced to poverty. He returned to London and died in 1789, before the British Government were able to resolve the question of his financial redress, and after spending nine years in a debtor's prison.  Gouverneur Morris graduated from what was to become Columbia University in 1768 and studied law. In the third New York Congress he argued that "independence is absolutely necessary" and when the Constitution of the State of New York (1776) was under discussion he tried to introduce a section prohibiting domestic slavery.  See our note on the Welsh and Slavery.
It is interesting to note that despite his misfortunes and his reputation as an easthete with more than a passing interest in the gaming tables, Valentine's memory is revered in south Wales. Mr. L. Twiston Davies, writing in 1933, says that before he was compelled to sail for the West Indies, Valentine "came down once to Piercefield to bid it farewell and apparently never to set foot there again." In 1781 his relative Robert Morris became controller of the finances of the nation and Gouverneur acted as his assistant for more than three years. While still a young man he was responsible for the final revision of the draft of the United States Constitution. 
"The country people for whom he had done so much, showing especial kindness to the very poor, assembled at Chepstow to give him God-speed; and as his chaise crossed the bridge on the road to London, there sounded upon his ears a muffled peal as for a departing friend." Gouverneur Morris spent nine exciting years in a troubled France and two years after his return was elected a US Senator. He died in 1816. 
 
 John Weston / Data Wales 2000/4

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