A surgical stapling instrument for suturing tissues or organs. The instrument is of the type having a fixed anvil jaw, a movable staple cartridge-carrying jaw shiftable toward and away from the anvil jaw, and a staple driver actuator shiftable to actuate the staple driver of the staple cartridge to implant the staples of the cartridge in the tissue or organ located between the anvil jaw and the staple cartridge-carrying jaw. The instrument is provided with a clutch to control the gap between the fixed anvil jaw and the staple cartridge in response to the pressure being applied to the organ or tissue therebetween to preclude over-compression or under-compression thereof. The instrument is also provided with a latch to preclude shifting of the staple driver actuator to actuate the staple driver when the gap determined by the clutch is not within the limits of the proper working gap of the instrument required by the forming limits of the staples. The latch means further assures proper sequential operation of the instrument by the surgeon.