(January 31, 1752–November 6, 1816), was an attorney, politician, soldier and diplomat. He penned the final draft of the Constitution of the United States, being the head of the Committee on Style, and was the originator of the phrase “We the people of the United States.” He was 35 years old when he served as one of the members of the Continental Congress, and he spoke 173 times during the Constitutional debates (more than any other delegate).
He was the first U.S. Minister to France, a U.S. Senator, and helped to write the New York Constitution. A graduate of King’s College (Columbia University), he was a merchant, lawyer, planter, financier and pioneer promoter of the Erie Canal.
On April 17, 1778, Gouverneur Morris wrote a letter to his mother:
I look forward serenely to the course of events, confident that the Fountain of Supreme wisdom and virtue will provide for the happiness of his creatures. …
Whenever the present storm subsides, I shall rush with eagerness into the bosom of private life, but while it continues, and while my country calls for the exertion of that little share of abilities, which it has pleased God to bestow on me, I hold it my indispensable duty to give myself to her.1425
In An Address on the Bank of North America, given in the Pennsylvania State Assembly, 1785, Gouverneur Morris stated:
How can we hope for public peace and national prosperity, if the faith of governments so solemnly pledged can be so lightly infringed? Destroy this prop, which once gave us support, and where will you turn in the hour of distress? To whom will you look for succor? By what promise or vows can you hope to obtain confidence?
This hour of distress will come. It comes to all, and the moment of affliction is known to Him alone, whose Divine Providence exalts or depresses states and kingdoms. Not by the blind dictates of arbitrary will. Not by a tyrannous and despotic mandate.
But in proportion to their obedience or disobedience of His just and holy laws. It is He who commands us that we abstain from wrong. It is He who tells you, “do unto others as ye would that they would do unto you.”1426
On April 29, 1789, shortly before the French Revolution, Gouverneur Morris wrote in a letter to George Washington:
The materials for a revolution in this country (France) are very indifferent. Everybody agrees that there is an utter prostration of morals; but this general proposition can never convey to an American mind the degree of depravity.
It is not by any figure of rhetoric, or force of language, that the idea can be communicated. A hundred anecdotes, and a hundred thousand examples, are required to show the extreme rottenness of every member. There are men and women who are greatly and eminently virtuous. I have the pleasure to number many in my acquaintance; but they stand forward from a background deeply shaded.
It is however, from such crumbling matter, that the great edifice of freedom is to be erected here. … The great masses of the common people have no religion but their priests, no law but their superiors, no morals but their interest.
These are the creatures who, led by drunken curates, are now in the high road a la liberte, and the first use they make of it is to form insurrections everywhere for the want of bread.1427
In a speech prepared for the King of France, Gouverneur Morris wrote in 1792:
Those who are charged with the important duties of administering justice, should, if possible, depend only on God.1428
When France was in the process of establishing a new form of government, Gouverneur Morris offered them his expertise in government formation by writing Observation on Government, Applicable to the Political State of France, and Notes on the Form of a Constitution for France in 1792:
Religion is the only solid basis of good morals; therefore education should teach the precepts of religion, and the duties of man toward God.
These duties are, internally, love and adoration; externally, devotion and obedience; therefore provision should be made for maintaining divine worship as well as education.
But each one has a right to entire liberty as to religious opinions, for religion is the relation between God and man; therefore it is not within the reach of human authority.1429
In a letter to Thomas Jefferson, written on December 3, 1792, Gouverneur Morris commented regarding France:
The open contempt of religion, also cannot but be offensive to all sober minded men.1430
In writing again to his Tory mother, Gouverneur Morris expressed:
There is one Comforter who weighs our Minutes and Numbers out our Days.1431
Near the end of his life, Gouverneur Morris stated that he would soon:
Descend towards the grave full of gratitude to the Giver of all good.1432