Gouverneur Morris: An Imperfect Founder Who Sought a More Perfect Union of Merit

Gouverneur Morris, one of the lesser known but significant founders of the country is known as the author of the renowned preamble of the United States Constitution.  But there was more to Morris than style.  Here, the Honorable John K. Bush, U.S. Circuit Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, provides a fascinating portrait.

Judge Bush … your witness

He has been called one of the “Forgotten Founders.”[1] Today, he wouldn’t have to worry about any statues of him being removed because none were ever built. Yet he is the one Framer who probably would feel most at home in the twenty-first century. His name is Gouverneur Morris.

Despite his obscurity, Morris is best known as the author of the famous Preamble to the Constitution: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”[2]

According to James Madison, “[t]he finish given to the style and arrangement of the Constitution, fairly belongs to the pen of Mr. Morris.”[3] A member of the Committee on Style and Arrangement, he had primary responsibility to put the Constitution into its final form. To borrow a description offered by former Court of Appeals Judge Michael McConnell, Morris was a “careful artisan of the English language.”[4] He “chisel[ed]” from a massive rock—those twenty-three resolves written in cumbersome detail by a predecessor committee, aptly named the Committee of Detail.[5]

His sculpture has seven features. Article I lists “[a]ll legislative Powers herein granted.” Article II pertains to “[t]he executive Power.” Article III sets forth “[t]he Judicial Power.” Article IV describes the relationship between the states and the national government. Article V explains the constitutional amendment process. Article VI obliges the national government to honor pre-war debt, establishes constitutional supremacy, and prohibits tests of office holders based on religion. And finally, Article VII provides the process for “the People” to ratify the Constitution.[6]

Morris’s language—sometimes confined, at other times capacious, but always elegant—gave the document a classical and gracious style. There is an oft-cited quotation—many don’t know it is from Morris—that the Constitution was “the work of plain, honest men.”[7] Yet as to those men, maybe Morris was an exception.

His wordsmithing was not supposed to alter the delegates’ agreement in any material way. But perhaps it did.  William Treanor, the dean of Georgetown Law, recently called Morris “the dishonest scrivener” for making what Treanor believes were significant word choices that purported to be non-substantive but were, in fact, changes in constitutional meaning.[8] Treanor isn’t the first to wonder if anything was up Morris’s ruffled sleeve. Historian Max Farrand observed: “A careful comparison of the draft reported by the committee of style with the proceedings of the convention would lead one to think that no undue liberties had been taken, and yet just a little suspicion attaches to the work of Morris in preparing this last draft of the constitution.”[9]

According to Treanor, Morris “made a series of subtle changes [to the Constitution] that his fellow delegates missed (or thought stylistic) when they considered the Committee of Style’s draft but that advanced goals that he had not been able to win during the floor votes.” Such “changes became central to many of the great constitutional debates of the early republic, and, for originalists, they are central—or should be central—to many of today’s most significant constitutional debates.”[10]

But those debates are for another day. The present essay does not principally concern Morris’s substantive contributions to the Constitution, nor does it relate all of the stranger-than-fiction events in the life of “The Extraordinary Mr. Morris,” to borrow the title from a biography of him.[11] Rather, the effort here is to describe a few things Morris did and some of his attributes that are worthy of remembrance.

Before jumping into that task, though, it is only fair to disclose two of his warts. First, Morris picked the wrong side of history during the War of 1812, at least according to some historians. He opposed the declaration of war against Great Britain. He even went so far as to advocate for New England and New York to form a northern confederacy that would secede from the Union and make peace with Britain.[12] In the aftermath of that war, no one wanted to celebrate a Founder who, only a few years after helping establish “a more perfect Union,” had sought to destroy it. Morris was an embarrassment to the national narrative as then told. 

Morris’s second wart is that he was the proverbial “bad boy” of the Founding Fathers. When Gouverneur worked for Robert Morris, the Superintendent of Finance for the Confederation Congress (no familial relation between them), he was called Robert’s “immoral Assistant.” Gouverneur pleaded guilty, acknowledging he had “naturally a taste for pleasure.”[13] A bachelor for most of his life, he romanced many women, mostly in Europe where he lived and traveled for over nine years.

Historian and poet Mercy Otis Warren, who was one of Morris’s contemporaries, called him “[a] character eccentric from youth to declining age; a man of pleasure, pride, and extravagance, fond of the trappings of monarchy, and implicated by a considerable portion of the citizens of America, as deficient in principle.”[14] Warren’s criticism, however, stands out among recorded female observations about him, which tended to be positive.[15]

Historian Melanie Randolph Miller has argued that Morris never disdained women’s intellect. To the contrary, according to Miller, he had a “willingness to give” women “full credit as wits and political thinkers.” Miller observed that Morris’s respect for female political thought was “a sharp contrast to” Thomas “Jefferson, who objected to women having anything to do with politics.” Whereas Jefferson “was never entirely comfortable with strong and independent women,” Morris “had as many serious discussions with women as with men.”[16]

Also, unlike Jefferson, Morris viewed humanity with nuance. Of Jefferson, Morris wrote: “I think he does not form very just Estimates of Character but rather assigns too many to the humble Rank of Fools, whereas in Life the Gradations are infinite and each Individual has his peculiarities of Fort and Feeble.”[17]

As for Morris’s “Fort” (that is, his strength), it is notable that, more than any other Founder, Morris spoke out against slavery at the Constitutional Convention. And he practiced what he preached. Granted, his father owned many slaves, and Morris inherited one from him. The son also bought a handful of slaves through the years. But his custom, as far as we can tell, was always to arrange for freedom after acquiring a slave, unlike many other Founders who would not emancipate. Morris chose rather to employ paid laborers on his 1,900-acre estate, Morrisania, located in Westchester County, across the East River from Manhattan.[18]

The way Morris ran his farm aligned with his political views. He sought immediate abolition of slavery in New York’s first constitution, which he helped draft as a delegate to the Provincial Congress in 1776-1777. He lost the debate, but his stance laid groundwork for slavery to be eliminated over time in the Empire State.[19]

Likewise, as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in 1787, Morris called out slavery for the evil it is. He described slavery as a “nefarious institution,” and he castigated his colleagues for continuing to prop it up. Commerce and slavery are fundamentally at odds with each other, he argued. He noted how the economy flourished in Northern states, where slavery had been or would soon be abolished, but languished in the slaveholding South.[20] And he spoke to more than just economics. Like many Founders, he acknowledged that slavery was morally wrong. But unlike too many Founders, Morris wanted to do something about it at the Convention.

In this regard, Morris opposed the inclusion of slaves in the census to allot members of the House of Representatives and electors in the Electoral College. Such counting was inappropriate, he argued, because it rewarded the slaveholding states with more power in Congress and in the selection of the president. Even though the slaveholders insisted that their slaves be included in the census, those masters did not want slaves to have voting rights. So, counting slaves in the census provided no benefit for them but rather served only to strengthen slaveholders’ own electoral power.  Unfortunately, Morris lost the debate when the Convention compromised to treat a slave as three-fifths of a person in the enumeration.[21]

But he chose language for the Constitution that did not dignify slavery as a permanent institution in America. In fact, in the preamble, he wrote that one purpose of the Constitution is to “secure the Blessings of Liberty.” Also, he did not use the words “slavery,” “slaveholding,” or “slave” anywhere in the document, as abolitionist Frederick Douglass would note in his argument that the Constitution is “a GLORIOUS LIBERTY DOCUMENT.”[22]

Morris also took out all obvious gender references that had appeared in the draft produced by the Committee on Detail except for generic masculine pronouns (referring to both men and women).[23] Although state governments could and would deny the vote and other rights to Blacks and women, Morris ensured that the wording of the federal government’s charter would never be the source of any such restriction.

Solicitude for human rights is a trait one might not have guessed was present in Morris given his roots. His father’s side, the Morrises, were wealthy and prominent, as was his mother’s Huguenot (French Protestant) family, the Gouverneurs, from whom came his first name. His ancestry gave him, as historian J. Jackson Barlow put it, “as aristocratic a pedigree as anyone in the new world could claim,”[24] though historians should not discount his ancestral Huguenots as providing him a reminder of the experience of a persecuted minority.

But pedigree could not protect Morris from calamity. An accident at the age of twenty-eight brought down the “high flying Monarchy man,” as Jefferson called him.[25] Indeed, quite literally. Morris fell off the front seat of his carriage and, on the way down to the cobblestones, lost his hold on the reins of his spooked, galloping horses. He also lost control of his left leg, which got caught in a carriage wheel. He pulled it out only for it to be run over by another wheel. The crushed leg was a bloody, broken mess. Amputation followed, just below the kneecap.[26] The required use of a peg leg might have provided Morris with even greater empathy for the plight of others.

He could have treated his disability as an excuse, but he didn’t. Rather, a steeling determination emerged that would motivate him to climb the stairs of the Belfry at Bruges and Saint Paul’s dome at London. It was a clomp repeated for 616 steps up to the steeple of the Cathedral of Our Lady at Antwerp. And for many miles more. When the wood wore out from wear—as it invariably did before he did—he would have another one lathed to resume his journey.[27] “Perseverance, Perseverance that is the great Desideratum,” he wrote.[28] The leg did not diminish Morris’s love of dance–“hobble,” he called it, as he swung his peg leg to land in time with the harpsichord.[29]

His life was full of friendships. And he remained steadfastly loyal even when others lost courage. As the American minister to France, Morris risked his life to hide French noblemen who had fought for America in her revolution only to be threatened by the guillotine of France’s own revolution. He sheltered people such as Count Henri Hector d’Estaing, an ancestor of the late French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing.[30] He explained: “You see, they are all persons to whom our country is more or less indebted, and it would be inhuman to force them into the hands of the assassins, even had they no such claim upon me.”[31] At one point Morris was the only diplomat left in Paris as it descended into the Reign of Terror. He wrote Jefferson: “Let what may happen I hope that tho’ my Friends should have occasion to lament my Fate, they will never be oblig’d to blush for my Conduct.”[32]

Those actions included attempts to help Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette flee from France before it was too late.[33] He was more successful in the rescue of other prominent people when they were down on their luck. He used the French monarch’s personal funds, given to him for safekeeping, to help many escape the guillotine.[34] He also made a substantial loan from his own funds to Louis-Philippe (the future “Citizen King” of France) to tide him over while in exile.[35] He lent money as well to the Marquis de Lafayette and helped to free him from capture by the Prussian army. Lafayette later stiffed Morris on repayment of much of the loan, but Morris let it go.[36] Similarly, when Robert Morris went bankrupt, Gouverneur bailed his old mentor out of debtors’ prison, restored him to a respectable footing, but demanded nothing in return.[37]

There is a story, perhaps apocryphal, that Morris once “broke a leg,” so to speak. A crowd had surrounded his carriage in Paris, hooting and hollering “an aristocrat!”, with the idea to hang him. So, he had to think quickly on his feet to utilize the wooden one. Upon emerging from the carriage, he unharnessed his peg leg, thrusted it above his head, and shouted in French, translated as “An aristocrat! Yes, truly, who lost his leg in the cause of American liberty!”[38]

In that story, Morris’s quick thinking and action probably saved him. But there is another report about him, also perhaps apocryphal, where reflection before action would have been preferred. Supposedly, Hamilton had promised to buy dinner with the finest wine for Morris and a dozen friends if Morris would greet Washington with a friendly slap on the back.  Morris took Hamilton up on his dare. Washington responded by immediately removing Morris’s hand to give him the coldest stare. According to one account, Morris later recalled, “The President did not speak, but the majesty of the American people was before me. Oh, his look! How I wished the floor would open and I could descend to the cellar!”[39]

Washington’s reserve evoked reverence, but it did not help him make many close friends. If anyone fell in the latter category, it was Morris. He cast a crucial vote of confidence for Washington during the winter at Valley Forge, when many in the Continental Congress wanted to replace him as commander in chief.[40] And soon after the Constitution was adopted, Morris told Washington, “[y]our cool steady Temper is indispensably necessary to give a firm and manly Tone to the new Government.” “[Y]ou must be the President,” Morris insisted. “No other Man can fill that Office.”[41]

Morris once stood as the model for a sculpture of Washington. The French artist Jean-Antoine Houdon had visited Mount Vernon to make a face mask but had not made a mold of the rest of the general’s body. When Houdon met Morris in Paris, the sculptor had an idea. Morris had the same height and built as Washington. Apparently, Gallic charm persuaded the general’s friend who was missing a leg to stand for hours over at least four days “being the humble Employment of a Manakin.” That the sum of Morris’s parts did not equal Washington’s did not matter. As historian Jennifer Van Horn noted, “Houdon erased the wood leg that” Morris “donned and provided” the statue “with a new marble limb that attained almost perfect verisimilitude with” Morris’s missing limb. Morris may have been dubious of how the project would turn out. But he would do anything to honor his friend, even it meant “literally taking the Advice of St. Paul to be all Things to all People.”[42] Morris and Houdon’s collaboration resulted in two statues of Washington—one that today is outside of Independence Hall and the other that stands in the rotunda of the Virginia state capitol.[43]

Morris also was a loyal friend to Hamilton, even though the latter sometimes spoke badly about Morris behind his back. After Hamilton lost his infamous duel with Aaron Burr, Hamilton’s widow asked Morris to deliver the eulogy at the funeral. She said that Morris was her husband’s “best friend.” In his remarks Morris, of course, drew “a Veil” over the fact that Hamilton may have foolishly brought about his own death through dueling, and that he had humiliated his wife and family through a well-publicized extramarital affair. And though Hamilton had served brilliantly as secretary of the treasury, he was no prudent manager of his own money. Morris called Hamilton “mild and gentle,” with “no offence; no guile” and a “generous hand and heart . . . open to all.” Morris subsequently organized, without fanfare, a fundraiser for Hamilton’s destitute widow and children.[44]

Morris showed little ambition for political gain for himself. After serving as a principal drafter of the New York Constitution in 1777, Morris refused to accept any political patronage in reward. “Gouvr. Morris will have no Office . . . . He told them plainly He had done enough to hang himself & therefore they need not be jealous of him.”[45]

Though his interest in political advancement was low, he did not lack party spirit. Unlike Washington, who eschewed political parties, Morris was a vigorous Federalist, whose avowed enemies were the Jeffersonian Republicans, later Democratic-Republicans under James Madison. Federalists like Morris opposed “Mr. Madison’s war,” the War of 1812. War Hawks claimed that the fight was to end the impressment of American sailors by the British navy and to “liberate” Canada. Morris thought the true motivation for war was to expand the power of the slaveholding South and the Democratic-Republicans, who were popular in that region. He believed that slave owners wanted to conquer new territories on the western and southern frontiers. From there, he believed, new slave states would be formed to strengthen slaveholders’ control of Congress and the White House.[46]

By the end of the war, however, Morris’s partisan fires had cooled. To be sure, he still believed there were serious wrongs, like slavery, that needed to be righted. But he apparently concluded that universal abolition would be more likely accomplished by a country that stayed together rather than fell apart. Near the end of his life, Morris counseled fellow Federalists,

But, Gentlemen, let us forget Party, and think of our Country. That Country embraces both Parties. We must endeavor, therefore to save and benefit both. . . . The pressure of Distress will accelerate the Moment of Reflection; and when it arrives, the People will lookout for Men of Sense, Experience and Integrity. Such Men may, I trust, be found in both Parties; and, if our Country be delivered, what does it signify whether those who operate her Salvation wear a federal or a democratic Cloak?

He acknowledged, “[p]erhaps the Expression of these Sentiments may be imprudent”—he was, after all, telling a group of Federalists that not all Democratic-Republicans were bad—“but when it appears proper to speak Truth, I know not Concealment. It has been the unvarying Principle of my Life, that the Interest of our Country must be preferred to every other Interest.”[47]

Morris’s willingness to consider the other side’s views—and sometimes be persuaded to change his mind—was evident earlier at the Constitutional Convention, as recalled by James Madison. Late in Madison’s life, and years after Morris had passed away, the former president was magnanimous towards the man who had opposed “Mr. Madison’s war” and advocated Northern secession. Madison wrote this regarding Morris in the constitutional debates: “to the brilliancy & fertility of his genius, he added what is too rare, a candid surrender of his opinions when the lights of discussion satisfied him that they had been too hastily formed, and a readiness to aid in making the best of measures in which he had been overruled.”[48]

In his own defense of the compromises at the Constitutional Convention,  Morris offered to a friend in 1811: “It is not easy to be wise for all times, not even for the present—much less for the future; and those who judge of the past must recollect that, when it was present, the present was future.”[49]

Morris, though, would probably welcome present debate about the Founders. He noted that “holy writings” “tell us what man is, and they, alone, tell us why he is what he is: a contradictory creature that, seeing and approving what is good, pursues and performs what is evil.”[50]

To be sure, the Founders fell short of achieving in their lifetime Morris’s vision of a “more perfect Union” and the “Blessings of Liberty,” as set forth in the Constitution’s preamble. Morris himself faltered in his constitutional faith during the War of 1812. But after the fighting had ended, Morris returned to his belief that the Constitution would allow America to develop and flourish. Like his peg leg, which was not always completely aligned with his “Stump,” the nation’s governing instrument would not always be a good fit for many Americans. It would need to be adjusted many times over the years through the amendment process to make it more suitable. But that device would prove usable enough. As Washington wrote Morris, the Constitution gave “[g]reat temperance, firmness, and foresight necessary in the movements of that Body” called the American people.[51]

Indeed, as historian Will Wilkinson explained, the “Morris-drafted Constitution” turned out to be “a sturdier instrument” than anyone could have imagined. And, though “most of the [F]ounders would hardly recognize their America in ours, Morris just might.”[52] He wrote that “[t]he proudest empire in Europe is but a bubble compared to what America will be, must be in the course of two centuries.”[53] In that span of time, Morris’s face would never be “carved into a mountain, immortalized in marble on the National Mall, or emblazoned on legal tender.”[54]

The Founder on the ten-dollar bill, Hamilton, once wrote Morris, “Let us both erect a temple to time, only regretting that we shall not command a longer portion of it to see what will be the event of the American drama.”[55] As that story is performed on Broadway, it has no character named Gouverneur Morris. But the man who does not appear in the credits shared the optimism and good faith of his friend who has the lead role.

 “I anticipate the Day when to command Respect in the remotest Regions it will be sufficient to say I am an American,” Morris predicted. “Our Flag shall then wave in Glory over the Ocean and our Commerce feel no Restraint but what our own Government may impose. Happy thrice happy Day. To reach this envied State we need only Will. Yes. My Countrymen our Destiny depends on our Will. But if we would stand high on the Record of Time[,] that will must be inflexible.”[56] As to the ultimate fate of America under its Constitution, Morris observed, “The event is in the hand of God.”[57]

[1] Gary L. Gregg III and Mark David Hall, America’s Forgotten Founders (Wilmington: ISI Books, 2011).

[2] U.S. Const., pmbl.

[3]James Madison to Jared Sparks, 8 April 1831,” Founders Online, National Archives, Early Access.

[4] Michael W. McConnell, The President Who Would Not Be King (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2020), 239.

[5] Ibid., 263; Max Farrand, The Framing of the Constitution of the United States (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1913),125.

[6] Catherine Drinker Bowen, Miracle at Philadelphia: The Story of the Constitutional Convention May to September 1787 (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1966), 140; Richard Beeman, Plain, Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution (New York: Random House, 2010); David O. Stewart, The Summer of 1787: The Men Who Invented The Constitution (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008), 234.

[7] James J. Kirschke, Gouverneur Morris: Author, Statesman, and Man of the World (New York: T. Dunne, 2005), 199.

[8] William M. Treanor, “The Case of the Dishonest Scrivener: Gouverneur Morris and the Creation of the Federalist Constitution,” Michigan Law Review, vol. 120, issue 1 (2021).

[9] Farrand, The Framing of the Constitution of the United States at 181-82.

[10] William M. Treanor, “Academic highlight: The Framer’s intent: Gouverneur Morris, the Committee of Style, and the creation of the Federalist Constitution,” SCOTUSblog, August 5, 2019, (arguing Morris’s “stylistic” changes affecting the development of legal and political doctrines include those of the coequal branches of government, the unitary executive, and judicial review).

[11] Howard Swiggett, The Extraordinary Mr. Morris (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, 1952).

[12] Richard Brookhiser, Gentleman Revolutionary: Gouverneur Morris, The Rake Who Wrote the Constitution (New York: Free Press, 2003), 202-07; William Howard Adams, Gouverneur Morris: An Independent Life (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003)(hereinafter cited as Adams, Independent Life), 290-93.

[13]Arthur Lee to John Adams, 11 May 1784,” Founders Online, National Archives. [Original source: The Adams Papers, Papers of John Adams, vol. 16, February 1784–March 1785, ed. Gregg L. Lint, et al. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012, pp. 205–206.] ; Sparks, The Life of Gouverneur Morris, 1:17.

[14] Lewis Lehrman, “How a Cynic Crafted the Constitution and Fell for the Romance of America,” The New York Sun, July 5, 2013.

[15] One senses, though, that Morris never thought he had forced himself on anyone. His diary recorded, for example, an instance when a would-be lover had “decline[d]” his “Embraces” and he “of Course” honored her wish. Gouverneur Morris, A Diary of the French Revolution, ed. Beatrix Cary Davenport(Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1939) (hereinafter cited as BCD), 1:338, 354.

[16] Melanie R. Miller, Envoy to the Terror: Gouverneur Morris & the French Revolution (Dulles, Virginia: Potomac Books, 2005), 25-26.

[17] BCD, 1:100.

[18] Max Farrand, ed., The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1937) (hereinafter cited as Farrand, Records), 2:221; Adams, Independent Life, 4; Kirschke, Author, Statesman, 61; Max Mintz, Gouverneur Morris and the American Revolution (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1970),  7; Zachary Kussin, “How New York’s Slavery History is Still Present in NYC,” Untapped New York (Oct. 22, 2020) (hereinafter cited as Kussin).In one diary entry Gouverneur noted “a black Man whom I have hired as Cook at $16 per m[onth] employed in his Office.” The Diaries of Gouverneur Morris: New York, 1799-1816, ed. Melanie R. Miller, Hendrina Krol, and Elizabeth Hines (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2018) (hereinafter cited as DGM:NY), 614. Gouverneur’s “practice appears to have been to free any slave he bought but at the same time bind” the freeman “to an indenture for a number of years.” Ibid., 11 n.59. For example, Gouverneur immediately set free a slave after purchase from James Morris in 1799. Ibid., 11; Swiggett, The Extraordinary Mr. Morris, 338. However, freedom for slaves may have not always been immediate upon purchase. According to one recent account, the 1810 census reported two slaves at Morrisania. Kussin, supra.

[19] Adams, Independent Life, 82; Walter Stahr, John Jay: Founding Father (New York: Diversion Books, 2012), 78.

[20] Morris’s speech at the Constitutional Convention is reprinted in George Bancroft, History of the Formation of the Constitution of the United States, (New York: D. Appleton & Company, 1885), 2:299-301.

[21] U.S. Const., art. I, § 2, para. 3.

[22] Frederick Douglass, July 4 Oration, “The Constitution is a Glorious Liberty Document.”

[23] As legal scholar and historian Mary Sarah Bilder has explained, masculine pronouns were used in the generic sense in the document to refer to both men and women; thus, for example, the description of the president in Article II technically allowed for women (and also non-white people) to hold that office, though they would not until later be guaranteed the right to vote—a point recognized in commentary written soon after the Constitution’s ratification. Mary Sarah Bilder, “The Lady and George Washington,” The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, Dec. 12, 2018.

[24] To Secure the Blessings of Liberty, ix.

[25]Conversation with a Committee of the United States House of Representatives, 12 March 1792,” Founders Online, National Archives. [Original source: The Papers of George Washington, Presidential Series, vol. 10, 1 March 179215 August 1792, ed. Robert F. Haggard and Mark A. Mastromarino. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2002, pp. 87–89.]

[26] Mintz, Gouverneur Morris, 139; Swiggett, The Extraordinary Mr. Morris, 79. Philadelphia silversmith Jacob Hiltzheimer wrote in his diary, “Gouverneur Morris, member of Congress, broke his leg by jumping out of his phaeton as the horses were running away.” Jacob C. Parsons, ed., Extracts from the Diary of Jacob Hiltzheimer (Philadelphia: W.F. Fell & Co., 1893), 43. “Hiltzheimer’s stables were used by the city’s upper crust, so he would have learned of the accident almost at once.” Kirschke, Author, Statesman, 318.

[27] Gouverneur Morris, A Diary of the French Revolution, ed. Beatrix Cary Davenport(Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1939) (hereinafter cited as BCD), 1:xvii; Howard Swiggett, The Extraordinary Mr. Morris (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, 1952),199; DGM:NY, 266, 521.

[28] Gouverneur Morris to Robert R. Livingston, February 5, 1777, in Farrand, Records, 9:35.

[29] DGM:NY, 133.

[30]The Repeated Defeats of Comte d’Estaing,” Founder of the Day; “Giscard Cites an Ancestor Who Fought for America,” The New York Times, Sept. 1, 1974, 20.

[31] Sparks, The Life of Gouverneur Morris, 1:383.

[32] BCD, 2:522-23.

[33] Ibid., 2:488; Melanie R. Miller, Hendrina Krol, and Elizabeth Hines, The Diaries of Gouverneur Morris: European Travels 1794-1798 (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2011) (hereinafter cited as DGM:ET),xx; “To Thomas Jefferson from Gouverneur Morris, 10 July 1792,” Founders Online, National Archives. [Original source: The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 24, 1 June–31 December 1792, ed. John Catanzariti. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990, pp. 207–209].

[34] Miller, Envoy to the Terror, 151.

[35] DGM:ET, xxviii-xxix.

[36] Miller, Envoy to the Terror, 211; Jared Sparks, The Life of Gouverneur Morris, With Selections from His Correspondence and Miscellaneous Papers; Detailing Events in the American Revolution, the French Revolution, and in the Political History of the United States  (Boston: Gray and Bowen, 1832) (hereinafter cited as Sparks, The Life of Gouverneur Morris), 1:405.

[37] Farrand, The Framing of the Constitution of the United States, 20; Denise Kiernan & Joseph D’Agnese, Signing Their Lives Away: The Fame and Misfortune of the Men Who Signed the Declaration of Independence (Philadelphia: Quirk Books, 2009), 117; DGM:NY, 20 n.90; 241 n.122.

[38] The scene above is mentioned in many accounts, including “Sketch of the Life,” 2:192-93, Van Horn, The Power of Objects in Eighteenth-Century British America, 346-47, and Alan Pell Crawford, Unwise Passions: A True Story of a Remarkable Woman and the First Great Scandal of Eighteenth-Century America (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000), 123.

[39] William Thompson Read, Life and Correspondence of George Read, A Signer of the Declaration of Independence (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co., 1870), 441.

[40] Adams, Independent Life, 98; Sparks, The Life of Gouverneur Morris, 1:163-70; Thomas Fleming, Washington’s Secret War: The Hidden History of Valley Forge (New York: HarperCollins, 2005), 228, 282-83; Swiggett The Extraordinary Mr. Morris, 50.

[41]To George Washington from Gouverneur Morris, 30 October 1787,” Founders Online, National Archives. [Original source: The Papers of George Washington, Confederation Series, vol. 5, 1 February 1787—31 December 1787, ed. W. W. Abbot. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1997, pp. 398-401.]

[42] Van Horn, The Power of Objects in Eighteenth-Century British America, 397; Richard Beeman, Plain, Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution (New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2010), 45; BCD, 1:107.

[43] William Michael Treanor, “The Case of the Dishonest Scrivener,” 11-12.

[44] DGM:NY, 359-60; “The Funeral, [14 July 1804],” Founders Online, National Archives. [Original source: The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, vol. 26, 1 May 180223 October 1804, Additional Documents 17741799, Addenda and Errata, ed. Harold C. Syrett. New York: Columbia University Press, 1979, pp. 322–330.]; “Richard Brookhiser, “July 11, 1804: How Alexander Hamilton’s friends grieved,” The New York Post, July 10, 2015.

[45] Gouverneur Morris to George Clinton, May 21, 1778, in Farrand, Records, 9:727; Adams, Independent Life, 87.

[46] Brookhiser, Gentleman Revolutionary, 205; Adams, An Independent Life, 292-93.

[47] Gouverneur Morris to “The Committee of Correspondence, Philadelphia,” August 27, 1816, quoted in DGM:NY, xlv.

[48]James Madison to Jared Sparks, 8 April 1831,” Founders Online, National Archives, Early Access.

[49] Gouverneur Morris to Robert Walsh, Feb. 5, 1811, quoted in Sparks, The Life of Gouverneur Morris, 3:263.

[50] Gouverneur Morris, “An Inaugural Discourse (1816),” in To Secure the Blessings of Liberty, 643-44.

[51]From George Washington to Gouverneur Morris, 13 October 1789,” Founders Online, National Archives. [Original source: The Papers of George Washington, Presidential Series, vol. 4, 8 September 178915 January 1790, ed. Dorothy Twohig. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1993, pp. 176–179].

[52] Will Wilkinson, “The Fun-Loving Founding Father: Gouverneur Morris, the first modern American,” Reason, (July 2004).

[53] Swiggett, The Extraordinary Mr. Morris, 348.

[54] Wilkinson, “The Fun-Loving Founding Father.”

[55]From Alexander Hamilton to Gouverneur Morris, 21 February 1784,” Founders Online, National Archives. [Original source: The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, vol. 3, 1782–1786, ed. Harold C. Syrett. New York: Columbia University Press, 1962, pp. 512–514].

[56] Gouverneur Morris, “Address on ‘National Greatness’ (no date),” in To Secure the Blessings of Liberty, 664.

[57] Gouverneur Morris, “Oration on the Death of George Washington (1799),” in To Secure the Blessings of Liberty, 300.