Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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MORRIS, William, Canadian statesman, born in Paisley, Scotland, 31 October, 1786; died in Montreal, 29 June, 1858. In 1801 he came to Canada with his parents, and in 1804 he assisted his father in business in Montreal. He was commissioned an ensign in the militia at the beginning of the war of 1812, was present at the first attack on Ogdensburg, and commanded a gun-boat there. In 1816 he went to the military settlement near the Rideau, and engaged in business in what is now the town of Perth. In 1820 he was elected to the Upper Canada parliament for the county of Lanark, and he represented that constituency continuously till 1836, when he was called to the legislative council. At a meeting of Scottish delegates from all parts of Canada at Cobourg, Mr. Morris was selected as the bearer of a petition to the king and parliament, in which the petitioners asserted their claims to equal rights with their fellow-subjects of English origin to the clergy reserves, an appropriation of public lands to religious purposes. He went on this mission in 1837, and on his return was presented with a piece of plate by the Scottish inhabitants of Canada in recognition of his services. During the Mackenzie rebellion in 1837-'8 he was engaged in drilling and organizing militia, was a senior colonel in that force, and on one occasion commanded a detachment that was sent to the frontier. In 1841 he was appointed warden of the district of Johnstown, and in 1844 he became a member of the executive council in Sir Charles T. Metcalfe's administration, and was appointed receiver-general. While he held this portfolio he introduced a new system of management into the department, and on his resignation in 1846 he was appointed president of the executive council, which post he held till his retirement from public life in 1848. He was a clear and powerful speaker, and did much to establish the character of legislation in the body of which he was so long a member.--His brother, James, Canadian statesman, born in Paisley, Scotland, in 1798; died in Brockville, Upper Canada. 29 September, 1865, came to Canada with his parents when he was three years old, and on leaving school engaged in business in Brockville with his brothers Alexander and William. In July, 1837, he was elected to the legislature of Upper Canada for Leeds county. In 1838 he was appointed a commissioner for the improvement of the navigation of the river St. Lawrence, and he served in this capacity until the completion of the St. Lawrence canals. He was elected to the parliament of united Canada for his former constituency in 1841, and in 1844 called to the legislative council under the administration of Sir Charles Metcalfe. In 1851 Mr. Morris became a member of the executive council, and was appointed postmaster-general, being the first to hold that office after the removal of the department from imperial control. Immediately after his appointment he went to Washington, negotiated a postal treaty with the United States government, and introduced into Canada a uniform postal rate of five cents for letters, instead of sixteen. In 1853 he resigned the postmaster-generalship, and was speaker of the legislative council until the autumn of 1854. In 1858 he became a member of the executive council and speaker of the legislative council in the Brown-Dorion administration. In 1862 he was appointed receiver-general, and was leader of the Sandfield Macdonald-Sicotte government. He resigned in 1863, owing to illness. He was a reformer in politics, of unblemished reputation, and possessed of great administrative ability.--William's son, Alexander, Canadian statesman, born in Perth, Upper Canada, 17 March, 1826, was educated at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, and at McGill university, Montreal, studied law, and was admitted to the bars of Upper and Lower Canada in 1851. He began practice in Montreal, and in 1861 was elected to the Canada assembly for South Lanark, which he continued to represent till the union of 1867, when he was elected by acclamation for that constituency to the Dominion parliament. In 1864 he was active in the negotiations that resulted in the formation of the coalition government in that year, and also in advocating confederation, which he had long before proposed. In 1869 Mr. Morris became a member of the privy council of Canada, and minister of inland revenue. From July till December, 1872, he was the first chief justice of the court of Queen's bench of Manitoba, and he was then appointed lieutenant-governor of that province and the Northwest Territories, and subsequently he became also governor of the district of Keewatin. He became a commissioner of Indian affairs for Manitoba and the Northwest Territories, 16 June, 1873, and took part in that capacity in negotiating treaties with various tribes, whereby the government acquired the title to an area of country extending from the highlands above Lake Superior westward to the Rocky mountains, and covering the line of the Pacific railway. He was appointed in January, 1876, a commissioner respecting the land-claims of settlers in Manitoba, and retired from his lieutenant-governorship in 1877. In 1878 Mr. Morris was an unsuccessful candidate for Selkirk, Manitoba, for the Dominion parliament; but in December of that year he was elected for Toronto East to the Ontario legislature, where he held a seat till 1886, when he retired, owing to failing health. He is a Conservative, was appointed Queen's counsel by the Dominion government in 1881, has been president of St. Andrew's society, Montreal, a governor of the university of McGill college, and is chairman of the board of trustees of Queen's university, Kingston. He is the author of "Canada and her Resources," a prize essay prepared for the Paris exhibition; "Nova Britannia," a lecture (Montreal, 1858) ; "The Hudson Bay and Pacific Territories," a lecture (Toronto, 1884) ; "The Treaties of Canada with the Indians of the Northwest" (1880) ; and "Nova Britannia," a collection of speeches and lectures on confederation (1869).
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