A Blupete Biography Page


Charles Morris
(1711-81)

In the conclusion of the DCB write-up, we find: "Charles Morris was surveyor general of lands for the province for 32 years, a period which saw the founding of Halifax and Lunenburg and the coming of the pre-loyalists, when the colony's foundations were laid." To this I would add, that Charles Morris also played a very important part in the development of the province's justice system, occupying, as he did, a number of important positions on the bench.

Charles Morris was born in Boston. His mother was a Rainstorpe. Charles was to marry into one of the high circles at Boston; his bride was Mary, the daughter of the Attorney General, John Read.1 Not much is known about his career up to the time Morris first came to Nova Scotia. Apparently he lived on his father's farm and taught school at Hopkinton, Massachusetts. At any rate, in 1746 he was to receive a commission from Governor Shirley. Morris was to raise a regiment and go to Nova Scotia.2 In 1746, there was a great deal of concern for the safety of Annapolis Royal, indeed of Boston itself, this, on account of a large French fleet, d'Anville's Armada, which was expected to arrive on the coast. By the time Morris arrived with his 100 New Englanders, the immediate threat had passed. He was ordered by Mascarene to march with his 100 to Minas and wait the arrival, coming by sea, of 400 more under Arthur Noble. He was thus there, in February, 1747, with Noble, during the The Battle of Grand Pré. Morris, unlike his friend Noble, was to survive the battle, so to return to Boston.

In order to succeed in holding off the French in Acadia (then officially English territory) it was necessary that the authorities should known more about the territory. What parts were settled? By whom (Acadians)? To what extent? What lands were available for English settlers? Thus Governor Shirley sent Morris up (together with fifty men) from Boston in the spring of 1748 to see if these questions might be answered. He first called upon Mascarene at Annapolis Royal and then proceeded to Minas; after that he moved on to Chignecto. The result of Morris' work in 1748 was a written report with attendant maps (see the one on Annapolis and another on Minas), which, once received by Shirley, was sent over from Boston to the authorities at London. This report and attendant maps constitute very valuable historic documents, depicting, as they do, the location of the French habitations at Chignecto, Annapolis Royal and Minas.3 This information was instrumental in the founding of Halifax.

Morris was one of the first to come, in 1749, and to greet Cornwallis and was of great assistance to him in the laying out of the new town. Morris was to continue on at Halifax and to become one of its most prominent citizens. Instrumental in the site selection, Morris, also, was to go down with the "Swiss/German" settlers in 1753 and assist in the founding of Lunenburg (he laid out the town and the garden lots). Morris' work in the establishment of Halifax and Lunenburg was recognized, when, late in December of 1755, he was appointed to Council.

The final capture of Louisbourg, in 1758, put Acadia firmly in English hands; and, with the French making the last of the their stands in Quebec, a more concerted effort in the settlement of Nova Scotia, first started in 1749, began. Up to this point, only at the fortifiable and fortified places of Halifax and Lunenburg had been established as "English" communities. With the defeat of the French, the Indian threat no longer existed; and, with the deportation of the Acadians, the "title problems" in respect to the rich agricultural lands around the Bay of Fundy, were resolved. With these major impediments removed and with the ever increasing population levels of the English colonies to the south, restricted as they were by the Appalachian range: New Englanders were beginning to see Nova Scotia as the place to come to farm and to live. Thus was to begin one of the great immigration waves4 which was to form one of the constituent parts of the eventual population base of Nova Scotia. Morris was to be of great assistance to the location and establishment of the new settlements which were to come into being during 1759-70, among them: Windsor (Piziquid), Truro (Cobequid), Liverpool, and Yarmouth.5

Morris' judicial career began in 1750, when, in December of that year, he was appointed a justice of the peace for the Town of Halifax. In March of 1752, he was made a justice of the Inferior Court of Common Pleas. Up to 1754, there was no judge in Nova Scotia who had formal legal training, in that year, however, that was to change with the appointment of Jonathan Belcher as the first Chief Justice of Nova Scotia. I am not sure of Morris' role in the judicial system thereafter; but, I do see, that during 1763 Morris was one of two judges appointed to assist Chief Justice Belcher. During May of 1764, Morris was appointed master in the Court of Chancery. With the death of the Chief Justice, in 1776, Morris was to step into his shoes as the acting Chief Justice until the appointment, in April of 1778, of Bryon Finucane.

Dying in 1781, Morris, apparently, was buried at Windsor. A son survived him, Charles Morris.

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FOOTNOTES:

[1] See, "The Supreme Court of Nova Scotia and Its Judges - 1754-1978" (The Nova Scotian Barristers' Society, 1978). Morris and his wife, Mary, were to have 11 children. Wright, in her work, Planters and Pioneers, Nova Scotia, 1749 to 1775 (Hantsport: Lancelot Press, 1982) at p. 215 was to name nine of them: Charles, John, William, Mary, Alexander, Francis, Samuel, James and Sarah.

[2] No matter that Morris was a teacher, all healthy adult men, in colonial times, were in the militia; the upper crust of society formed the upper crust (the officer corps) of the military.

[3] See Report of the Work of the Archives Branch for the Year 1912; Arthur G. Doughty, Dominion Archivist, at p. 79 wherein is set forth the Captain Morris' report (at least in part) together with a reproduction of the maps (tipped in at p. 78) (Ottawa: 1913).

[4] Of the first three centuries, there were four major immigration waves: the French (Acadians of the Valley), the German/Swiss (Lunenburg), the New England Planters (the Valley), and the Scottish (Pictou and Cape Breton).

[5] Historically noteworthy is Morris' report, "Description and State of the New Settlements in Nova Scotia in 1761" as found in, Report Concerning Canadian Archives Branch for the Year 1904 (Ottawa: 1905), Appendix 'F'. Morris made maps, facsimiles of which can be found in the same spot. These maps, prepared by Morris, show the structures of the overlapping settlements, of the old (Acadians now having been forced out) and the new (New Englanders taking over).

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Peter Landry
(2012)