Thomas Jefferson Papers

David L. Morril to Thomas Jefferson, 10 March 1820

From David L. Morril

Washington City, March, 10th 1820—


Permit me, to do myself the honor, to enclose to you, the substance of some remarks, which I had the privilege of making in the Senate of the United States, on the Missouri Question.

I have the honor to be, with high consideration and respect, your most obedient, and very Humble Servant.

David L, Morril—

RC (MoSHi: TJC-BC); between dateline and salutation: “The Honorable Thomas Jefferson”; endorsed by TJ as received 30 Mar. 1820 and so recorded in SJL.

David Lawrence Morril (1772–1849), physician, clergyman, and public official, was born in Epping, New Hampshire, and attended Phillips Exeter Academy for a few months in 1790–91 before studying medicine, first at home with his stepfather and then under an uncle in Natick, Massachusetts. By 1793 he started a medical practice in Epsom, New Hampshire, but he gave it up about 1799 to study for the ministry. Morril became pastor in 1802 of a combined Presbyterian and Congregational church in Goffstown, New Hampshire. Nine years later he resigned from his church and resumed his medical practice. Morril had become increasingly active in politics as a Republican. After leaving the pulpit he served in the lower house of the state legislature between 1808 and 1817, as Speaker of that body beginning in 1816, as a United States senator, 1817–23, and as a New Hampshire state senator and president of that body beginning in 1823. Morril served three terms as governor of New Hampshire, 1824–27, retiring thereafter from politics and moving permanently in 1831 to Concord, New Hampshire. He opposed slavery throughout his political career and served late in life as president of the New Hampshire Colonization Society. Morril was also active in regional and national religious organizations, including service as a vice president of the American Sunday School Union (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; William H. Brown, “David Lawrence Morril,” Historical New Hampshire 19 [1964]: 3–27; Washington Daily National Intelligencer, 5 Feb. 1849; gravestone inscription in Old North Cemetery, Concord).

On 17 Jan. 1820 Morril made remarks in the United States Senate in favor of a proposal to prohibit the extension of slavery into Missouri as a condition of statehood. He argued that in prohibiting Congress from making any laws ending the importation or migration of slaves prior to 1808, by implication Article 1, Section 9 of the United States Constitution gave it the power to enact such prohibitions thereafter. In discussing his opposition to slavery, Morril quoted extensively from TJ’s writings on the subject in his Notes on the State of Virginia. Near the end of debate on the Missouri Compromise, Morril voted with a Senate minority against removing the prohibition of slavery from the House bill authorizing Missouri statehood (Annals description begins Annals of the Congress of the United States: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … Compiled from Authentic Materials, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1834–56, 42 vols. (All editions are undependable and pagination varies from one printing to another. Citations given below are to the edition mounted on the American Memory website of the Library of Congress and give the date of the debate as well as page numbers.) description ends , 16th Cong., 1st sess., 135–56; JS description begins Journal of the Senate of the United States description ends , 9:201 [2 Mar. 1820]).

On 1 Mar. 1820 Morril sent a similar letter and enclosure to John Adams (MHi: Adams Papers).

Index Entries

  • Adams, John; works sent to search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; works sent to search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; Notes on the State of Virginia search
  • Missouri question; speeches on search
  • Morril, David Lawrence; and Missouri question search
  • Morril, David Lawrence; identified search
  • Morril, David Lawrence; letter from search
  • Notes on the State of Virginia (Thomas Jefferson); and slavery search
  • Senate, U.S.; and Missouri question search