Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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LEWIS, Francis, signer of the Declaration of Independence, born in Llandaff, Wales, in March, 1713; died in New York city. 19 December, 1803. He was early left as an orphan to the care of his uncle, the dean of St. Paul's, educated at Westminster school, and entered commercial life in London. On coming of age, he sold his patrimony, invested in merchandise, and embarked for this country, where he established mercantile houses in New York and Philadelphia. Lewis made many trading voyages with great success to various parts of Europe, through Russia as far north as Archangel, and on the coast of Africa, and was twice wrecked on the shores of Ireland. In one of his ventures on the African coast, two negro boys and a girl were rescued from an island, where they had been abandoned by kidnappers, and restored to their friends, who rewarded the deliverer with a valuable amount of ivory and gold dust. Lewis endeavored to establish a regular trade to the mouths of Zambesi river, but was prevented by the jealousy of the Dutch. In 1752 Lewis was at Oswego, and served as volunteer aide to General Hugh Mercer. When the fort was assaulted by the French and Indians, Lewis was given a, s prisoner of war to the Indians, conducted to Montreal, and sent to France, but was afterward exchanged in a cartel and returned to this country. The British government gave him 5,000 acres of land for his services. In 1765 he moved his family from New York city to whitest one. L. I., and gave himself entirely to public affairs. His financial experience and business talent made him a most useful member of the committees on which he served, and the wealth that he had acquired was freely expended in the service of his country. His house at Whitestone was burned by the British, and Mrs. Lewis was imprisoned in the city; but her situation was brought before congress, and her exchange was finally effected by an order from General Washington. Lewis was one of the first to join the Sons of Liberty. He was a member of the New York committee in the 1st Colonial congress, which met in New York city in 1765, was elected a member of the 1st Continental congress in 1775, was one of the New York committee of 100, and on several army and finance committees. In the following year he signed the Declaration of Independence, in 1777 he was reelected to congress, and in 1779 appointed commissioner of the board of admiralty, and elected a vestryman of Trinity church. His old age was happy and cheerful; literature was an unfailing resource, and the society of his grandchildren a great amusement.--His second son, Morgan, statesman, born in New York city, 16 October, 1754; died there, 7 April, 1844, was graduated at Princeton in 1773, and studied law. In 1774 he joined the army before Boston as a volunteer, was elected captain of a New York militia regiment, and received a commission as major when this regiment was taken into the Continental service as the 2d New York. In 1776 Major Lewis was aide to General Horatio Gates, with rank of colonel and quarter-master-general of the northern army, serving throughout the campaign that terminated in the battle of Saratoga. In 1778 Colonel Lewis commanded at the battle of Stone Arabia and at Crown Point. In 1783 he resumed his legal studies, was admitted to the bar of New York, and elected a member of the assembly, first from New York city and afterward from Dutchess county. He became a judge of the court of common pleas, in 1791 attorney-general of the state, in 1792 chief justice of its supreme court, and in 1804 governor of the state. While governor he urged upon the legislature the necessity of national education, and under his administration a permanent fund for common schools was established, and the militia system was enlarged and rendered more efficient. From 1807 till 1812 Governor Lewis lived at his estate at Staatsburg, Dutchess county, and paid much attention to agriculture. In 1812 President Madison offered him the post of secretary of war, which he declined, and accepted the appoint-meat of quarter-master-general of the armies of the United States. In 1813 General Lewis was promoted to the rank of major-general. He served on the Niagara frontier, captured Fort George, and commanded at Sackett's Harbor and French Creek. At the close of the war he advanced the funds that were necessary for the discharge of American prisoners in Canada. He remitted all arrears of rents that were due from those of his own tenants in Delaware county that had either gone or sent a son to the war, and by his good management avoided on his own estates all anti-rent difficulties. Early in life General Lewis became a Freemason, and he was elected grand master of the order in 1831. He was president of the Historical society and of the Order of the Cincinnati. At the Centennial celebration of the birth of General Washington, General Lewis, who was then in his seventy-ninth year, delivered an oration that gave in a graphic manner an account of Washington's military career. General Lewis married Gertrude, daughter of Judge Robert R. Livingston, and left one daughter, Margaret. See "Biographies of Francis and Morgan Lewis," by Julia Delafield (New York, 1877).
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