Gouverneur Morris was one of the unsung heroes of the American Revolution. Although he was not one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, he was active in the development of its framework. His half brother, Lewis Morris, considerably older than Gouverneur Morris, was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Gouverneur Morris was also the author of large sections of the American Constitution. He is widely credited with the preamble: “We the People of the United States, in order to form a perfect Union...”
Gouverneur Morris was fortunate to be born in a wealthy family, and as such was able to participate in a classical education, taught by private tutors. He graduated from King’s College, now Columbia University, in 1768, studied law under William Smith and was admitted to the colonial bar in 1771, and began to practice law in New York City. Note that he was then only 19 years old.
Morris became a member of the New York Provincial Congress, in 1775. While a member in the Provincial Congress, he worked on changing it to a representative body for the future State of New York. Also in 1775, he was one of the signatories of the Articles of Confederation. He became a lieutenant colonel in the New York State Militia in 1776, and in August 1776, he also became a member of the committee to form a government for the State of New York. In the following year, in April 1777, he became a member of a committee to design the great seal of the State of New York. He was a member of the first State Council of Safety in May 1777, and a member of the first State Assembly in 1777 and 1778. Also in 1777 and 1778 he became a member of the Continental Congress. In 1781 he was appointed to assistant superintendent of finance, and served in that capacity until 1785.
Morris became a member of the Convention that framed the Constitution of the United States in 1787 [see above]. He was appointed to be the Commissioner to England in 1789, and the Minister Plenipotentiary to France in 1792. He served in that capacity until 1794. In 1800, Morris was elected as a Federalist to the United States Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of James Watson, and served in the U. S. Senate until 1803. From 1810 to 1813, Morris served as the chairman of the Erie Canal Commission.
Morris became a landowner in northern New York State near the Canadian border. The town of Gouverneur and the village of Gouverneur in St Lawrence County are named after him.
Morris’s given name identifies his Dutch background through his mother’s side. His mother’s name was Sarah Gouverneur [1714-1786], who in turn was the daughter of Sarah Staats, again clearly a Dutch surname. The Gouverneurs were French Huguenots who moved to Holland in the 1590’s because of religious persecution in their native France. The Gouverneur family moved to New Amsterdam in 1663, near the end of Dutch control of New Amsterdam. Sarah Gouverneur was the third generation of Gouverneurs in the new world. Sarah Staats’ family was part of the early Dutch settlers in New Amsterdam.
Gouverneur Morris was born on January 31, 1752 in Morrisania, New York. He was apparently a ladies’ man all of his life, but did not marry until he was already at the advanced age of 57 years, in 1809. His wife’s name was Anne Cary Randolph. The couple had one son. When Morris was only 28 years old, he was involved in a freak accident with a carriage drawn by two horses. The horses were distracted and freaked out, while Morris was descending from the carriage, and one of Morris’s legs was smashed by one of the carriage wheels, causing the need to amputate his leg below the knee. Morris passed away on November 6, 1816 at the age of 64 years. His son at that time was only 6 years old. He was interred in St. Anne’s Episcopal Church Yard in Bronx, New York.
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Gouverneur Morris, http://www.colonialhall.com/morrisg/morrisg.php
Gouverneur Morris, http://www.nndb.com/people/146/000049996/
Gouverneur Morris, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gouverneur_Morris