MORRIS, John (1735-1814), of Box, nr. Bath, Wilts.
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Family and Education
bap. 21 Feb. 1735, o.s. of Rev. John Morris of Marshfield Glos. and Box. educ. Winchester 1746; St. Edmund Hall, Oxf. 1753; M. Temple 1754, called 1759. m. bef. 19 May 1778, Elizabeth ?neé; Crook, s.p.s.
KC 24 Apr. 1782; bencher, M. Temple 1782, reader 1789, treasurer 1792.
Morris was a barrister practising on the western circuit and numbered among his clients the Marquess of Lansdowne, who ‘gave him his silk gown’ in 1782. At the general election of 1790 he contested Bath, but secured only a handful of votes and Lansdowne returned him for Calne. On this Jeremy Bentham, the political philosopher, remonstrated with the marquess:
Mr Morris, I think, had two merits. He had tried at Bath: and he was to help ‘settle’ Calne. Try at Bath? Yes: so he did; and you see what came of it: three votes out of (what was the number?) forty, fifty or sixty? This was his testimonial of importance. In Westminster Hall, in his own profession, ... what is he?—nothing. In the country, as something between the country gentleman and the country lawyer, he was supposed to be somebody:—and you see what it amounts to. He has done conveyancing business for you as for others: did you not pay him for it as others have done, and at least as well as others have done? Is a seat in Parliament to be given as a fee to a conveyance? and that as a makeweight too, after another fee, which hardly was an insufficient one?1
Morris is not recorded as having voted against administration and spoke twice—in opposition to John Horne Tooke’s* petition on the Westminster election, 9 Dec. 1790, and against any change in the mode of procedure in libel cases, 31 May 1791. The previous month he was listed ‘doubtful’ on the Test Act repeal question. He took no great interest in Parliament and was replaced in 1791 by a nominee more committed to his patron’s politics.
Morris retired to Bath where his former colleague Joseph Jekyll* found him, in 1801, looking ‘piteously old and shattered all to pieces’ and wrote of him in 1807: ‘I never hear from old Morris and suppose he is completely stupefied as well as brutified’.2 He died 1 Sept. 1814, naming only his wife Elizabeth in a will made in 1778. A son born to them on 1 Aug. 1791 presumably died young. In her will, proved in 1828, the chief beneficiaries were surnamed Crook.3