Marcus Morton

Marcus Morton
Marcus Morton
16th & 18th Governor of Massachusetts
In office
January 18, 1840 – January 7, 1841
January 17, 1843 – January 1844
Lieutenant George Hull (1840-1841)
Henry H. Childs (1843-1844)
Preceded by William Eustis (1825)
Edward Everett (1840)
John Davis (1843)
Succeeded by Levi Lincoln, Jr. (1825)
John Davis (1841)
George N. Briggs (1844)
12th Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts
In office
1824 – 1825
Acting Governor
February 6, 1825 - May 26, 1825
Governor William Eustis
Preceded by Levi Lincoln, Jr.
Succeeded by Thomas L. Winthrop (1826)
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Massachusetts's 10th district
In office
Preceded by Laban Wheaton
Succeeded by Francis Baylies
Personal details
Born February 19, 1784(1784-02-19)
East Freetown, Massachusetts
Died February 6, 1864(1864-02-06) (aged 79)
Taunton, Massachusetts
Political party Democratic-Republican
Children Nathaniel Morton

Marcus Morton (February 19, 17841 – February 6, 1864) was a lawyer, jurist, and politician from Taunton, Massachusetts. He represented Massachusetts in the United States House of Representatives and served two terms as 16th and 18th Governor of Massachusetts, as well as a portion of an unexpired term in 1825, as Acting Governor.

Morton was born in East Freetown, Massachusetts to Nathaniel and Mary (Cary) Morton. He received his early education at home, at age fourteen being placed under the Rev. Calvin Chaddock at Rochester, Massachusetts for further instruction. In 1801 he entered Brown University with the sophomore class, came to adopt Jeffersonian ideas, and graduated in 1804. He then read law at Taunton for a year in the office of Judge Seth Padelford, after which he entered Tapping Reeve's law school in Litchfield, Connecticut (where he was a schoolmate of John C. Calhoun). Moving back to Taunton, he was admitted to the Norfolk bar in 1807 and began practising. On December 23 of that year he married Charlotte Hodges, with whom he had twelve children. He received his LL. D. from Brown in 1826, and again (as an honorary degree) from Harvard University in 1840.

After serving as clerk of the Massachusetts Senate, Morton was elected as a Democratic-Republican to the House of Representatives in 1816 and served from 1817 until 1821. He lost his seat in the election of 1820.

In 1823 Morton served on the Massachusetts Governor's Council and became Lieutenant Governor the following year. He served briefly as acting Governor after William Eustis died in office in 1825. Later that year he was named as associate justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, and served there until 1840. As a judge he showed ready knowledge of legal principles, sound judgment in applying them, patience, courtesy, and strength of character.

From 1824 to 1848 there were two well-defined political camps in Massachusetts. The conservative Whigs were made up of wealthy aristocrats, shipowners, bankers, and manufacturers, largely concentrated in Boston. The more liberal and progressive Democratic-Republicans (who became known as the Democrats in this period) consisted of farmers, workers, and recent immigrants. Morton headed the latter group, and each year from 1828 to 1843 he ran for Governor on its ticket. He defeated Edward Everett in 1839 by one vote, and the Senate chose him over John Davis in 1842, as neither man obtained a majority.[citation needed] As Governor he secured retrenchment in public expenditures, reduced the number of Supreme Judicial Court justices from five to three, and abolished the right of appeal from the court of common pleas to the SJC except on questions of law, this privilege having made the administration of justice slow, expensive, and uncertain.

In 1845 President Polk appointed Morton collector of the port of Boston; he served four years. In 1848 he refused to run for Vice President with Van Buren, as he could not bring himself to bolt his party. However, his life-long opposition to slavery led him to join the Free Soil Party. He was a delegate of that party to the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention of 1853, and was elected on its ticket to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1858, serving one term.

Morton was a man of unquestioned honesty, whose poise, serenity, and character made him generally admired. In his championship of the lower classes, his distrust of over-large corporations, and his advocacy of shorter working hours he was a man ahead of his time (perhaps accounting for his somewhat sporadic level of political success). He was an overseer of Harvard University for thirty-two years.

Morton died at home in Taunton in 1864 and was buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery[1] there. His home in Taunton later became the original building of Morton Hospital and Medical Center. The Morton House in Taunton was demolished in the 1960s during hospital expansion.

His son, also named Marcus, was also a lawyer and would follow him on the state's supreme court. His daughter, Frances, was the mother of novelist Octave Thanet.[1]


1.^ Although the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress gives Morton's date of birth as December 19th, his actual date of birth was February 19th. This is shown in the book A History of the Town of Freetown, Massachusetts on page 157, and is also the date recorded at the Town Clerk's office in Freetown.


  1. ^ a b A History of the Town of Freetown, Massachusetts with an Account of the Old Home Festival, July 30th, 1902. Assonet Village Improvement Society (1902).

External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Laban Wheaton
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 10th congressional district

1817 – 1821
Succeeded by
Francis Baylies
Political offices
Preceded by
Levi Lincoln, Jr.
Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts
1824 – May 26, 1825
Succeeded by
Preceded by
William Eustis
Governor of Massachusetts (Acting)
February 6, 1825 – May 26, 1825
Succeeded by
Levi Lincoln, Jr.
Preceded by
Edward Everett
Governor of Massachusetts
January 18, 1840 – January 7, 1841
Succeeded by
John Davis
Preceded by
John Davis
Governor of Massachusetts
January 17, 1843 – January 1844
Succeeded by
George N. Briggs
Legal offices
Preceded by
Associate Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
1825 – 1840
Succeeded by

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