Explore By:

 Please turn your device to landscape view for wide tables like those below.

Francis Moryson

Member From: 1656 - 1656

Member image
  • Birth Date: Prior to 1628 Birth Place:
  • Death Date: 1680 or 1681
  • Gender: Male Race: Caucasian
  • Spouse: Cecilia
  • Children:
  • Religion:
  • Education:
  • Military Service:
  • Occupation/Profession:
  • Bio: FRANCIS MORYSON (or Morrison) was Speaker of the House of Burgesses at the assembly of 1656, which was the only time he was a member of the House. His father, Sir Richard Moryson (1571?-1628), had been lieutenant general of the ordnance and a member of Parliament for Leicester in 1621. Speaker Moryson arrived in Virginia as a cavalier refugee, stayed for more than a decade, and returned in 1663 to England, where he remained active in colonial affairs for many years.
    In 1648, their spirits depressed by the plight of their king, Francis Moryson, Richard Fox, and Henry Norwood, three royalist officers, agreed to meet in London and embark for Virginia. In August 1649, sunk in "horrors and despairs" by the execution of Charles I, the trio met and on 23 September sailed aboard The Virginia Merchant. In November the ship ran aground in storms off Cape Hatteras and was severely damaged. After weeks at sea, on 4 January the crew sighted land, and the next day exploratory parties, which included Moryson and Norwood, landed on a small island off the Eastern Shore. On the sixth the wind changed and the sailors left Moryson and his party ashore rather than miss the chance of setting sail for Jamestown. Stranded on the island, Moryson "was extremely decayed in his strength'' and the whole company faced death from starvation. When one woman ''had the envied Happiness to die ... , '' Henry Norwood claimed in his published account,A Voyage to Virginia, "it was my advice to the survivors . . . to endeavour their own preservation by converting her dead carcase into Food as they did to good effect. The same Counsel was embraced by those of our Sex; the Living fed upon the Dead; four of our Company having the Happiness to end their miserable Lives.''
    Several weeks later, Indians discovered them, carried them to the mainland, and nursed them back to health. "Major Morrison," Norwood wrote, "who had been almost at Death's Door, found himself abundantly refreshed and comforted with'' a pudding of Indian corn and crushed hickory nuts that he thought was a "Delicacy." Ten days later a Virginia fur trader, Jenkin Price, arrived at camp. The Virginia Merchant had grounded in the James River, and when Governor Sir William Berkeley had learned of the stranded survivors he had sent Price to find them. (Norwood may have been carrying with him a payment of £1,000 for Berkeley from Edmund Custis.) Henry Norwood; a Major Stephens, who had been a roundhead "Officer in the late Civil War, under Sir William Waller, and was now one of our fellow-sufferers''; and a few others followed Price to Northampton County. From there Norwood went to George Ludlow's York County home where he met Sir Thomas Lunsford, Sir Henry Chicheley, Sir Phillip Honeywood, a Colonel Hamond, and Ralph Wormeley. Wormeley brought Norwood to Jamestown, where he was Berkeley's guest until May when he left for Holland "to sollicite his majesty for the treasurer's place.''
    Speaker Moryson did not travel with Norwood, who reported that he ''was so far recovered as to be Heart-whole, but he wanted Strength to go through so great a Labour as this was like to prove. We left him with some others to be brought in Boats that the Governor had order' d for their Accomodation.'' When he arrived at the English settlements Moryson probably stayed with relatives. His brother Richard, who died in 1648, had had a plantation near Point Comfort, had commanded the fort there since 1639, and had been named to the Council in 1641, and Richard's widow, Winefrid, twice claimed Speaker Moryson as a headright in August 1650. In 1654 Speaker Moryson bought 24 acres, "commonly known by the name of the Glasse House," near Jamestown, and a year later he leased 120 acres on the James River. When former Speaker William Whitby's widow, Katherine, returned to England in 1657, the Lancaster County Court named Speaker Moryson guardian of her three young brothers, who remained in Virginia.
    In March 1656, Moryson probably moved to Jamestown, occupying a brick house that the assembly apparently purchased for their Speaker from Sir William Berkeley at a cost of 4,500 pounds of tobacco. The assembly also voted Moryson 6,000 pounds of tobacco ''for his loss of time and great care and pains taken about the public business.'' As Speaker, he ''was desired by the house to write two letters, one to his highness [Oliver Cromwell], the other to the Secretary of State [John Thurlow],'' which, dated 15 December 1656, supported Edward Digges, Samuel Mathews, Sr., and Richard Bennett as the agents in England arguing Virginia's side in its continuing boundary dispute with Maryland.
    At the beginning of Berkeley's second administration Moryson was appointed to the Council. He sat at the March 1660 meeting and was confirmed by the king's commission of July 1660. Two years later he was named commander of the fort at Point Comfort, and, when Governor Berkeley left nor England on 30 April 1661, Moryson was chosen to serve as acting governor and captain general ''to begin upon the governors seting sail. ''
    As acting governor in 1661 and 1662, Moryson sought peace with local Indians and issued a Council order against false rumors of Indian hostility. He also supervised the revision and publication of The Lawes of Virginia Now in Force ... (London, 1662), in which a carelessly written clause allowing the parish vestries to fill their own vacancies was substituted for Berkeley's 1661 provision that vestrymen should be ''chosen by the major part of the parrish.'' In 1661 Moryson gave the colony a silver communion service, then in March 1663 he left Virginia to join his wife, Cecilia, in England. During his years in England, Moryson acted for the colony in proceedings concerning tobacco, boundaries, and the Northern Neck grant, and was paid £200 annually. Moryson was one of the three agents who had nearly secured a Virginia charter in 1676 when word of Bacon's Rebellion reached London, and after the rebellion he returned to Virginia as a member of the royal commission that investigated it. Except for this brief return to Virginia in 1677, from 1663 to his death in 1680 or 1681 Moryson lived at Bishop's Waltham, Hampshire.
  • Other Notable Service and/or Elected Offices: Speaker of the House of Burgesses: 1656
    Member of the Council of State: 1660 - 1663
Session District District Number Party Leadership Committees
1656 James City Speaker of the House

*The information within this interactive and searchable application has been researched extensively by the House Clerk’s Office. As with any historical records of this age and breadth, there may be discrepancies and/or inconsistencies within records obtained from a variety of credible sources. Any feedback is encouraged at history@house.virginia.gov.

Search What's This?

Advanced Search