What Links This Liverpool Photo, The American War of Independence, the US Constitution and Bombed Out?
Above Photo: Chorley Court in Liverpool in the early 1900s.
While writing my Punk and New Wave Memoir, Bombed Out!, I researched the history of relevant parts of Liverpool city centre, because the history of Liverpool, and its buildings, form an ever-present backdrop to events in the book.
As mentioned in the book, I did many long, lonely, late-night walks home from Liverpool city centre in the early hours of the morning when I was playing in bands and going to Punk Clubs in late 1970s Liverpool. I had a couple of main routes, and one of them took me right down Dale Street, past the site of the above photo, then north to Crosby, a full seven miles away.
Just thinking about that walk makes me knackered today, let alone when I was hungover and actually doing it when I was seventeen years old.
Doing my research, I discovered a surprising fact about a former Liverpool son who helped change the face of the world in the eighteenth Century, yet who remains virtually unknown in the city of his birth.
The headline photo shows Chorley Court, Liverpool, which was the site of the birthplace of Robert Morris in 1734. Some accounts say he was “born into poverty” but I think he might have been a rung or two above abject poverty given what happened next (that photo was taken nearly 200 years after his birth, by the way, when much of Liverpool’s city centre was run-down, unsanitary and overcrowded, although the buildings were probably the same as when Morris was alive).
When he was thirteen years old, Robert Morris left Liverpool for America, to work on his father’s tobacco farm, and by the time he was eighteen, he’d gone into business and became a wealthy financier and shipping merchant, living in Philadelphia.
He then used his massive wealth to support the fight for US independence from his home country, by funding George Washington’s army in their struggle against the British. Without his money, Washington couldn’t have continued fighting.
Later, he helped set up the financial and banking systems of the newly-independent US, and Robert Morris was one of only two people to sign the three most important founding documents of the United States: the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the U.S. Constitution.
In later life Morris lost all his money on land deals and spent several years as a bankrupt in a debtor’s prison until Congress passed a bankruptcy act to release him. After he left prison in 1801, he lived a quiet, private life in a modest home in Philadelphia until his death in 1806.
As usual, Liverpool failed to recognise the significance of Chorley Court, which was pulled down and redeveloped in the early 1930s. In its place, the building currently on the site was erected in 1932, for the Blackburn Assurance company. It’s located at 151 Dale Street, in Liverpool’s city centre (see above map).
This information about Robert Morris is not widely known in Liverpool, and there is no monument to him in the city. In fact, at the time, he was probably seen as one of Britain’s greatest enemies. But with the passage of time there should surely have been some commemoration of one of Liverpool’s most historically significant Sons.
Buy a signed copy of Bombed Out! here: http://www.bombedoutpunk.com/buybook.php
For Liverpool’s links with the American Civil War, see also: http://www.bombedoutpunk.com/history/bombed-out-and-liverpools-role-in-the-american-civil-war/