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Today Gouverneur Morris may be one of the least-known Founding Fathers, but in his time he was one of the most accomplished. Lawyer and raconteur; aristocrat and democrat; slave owner and abolitionist; draftsman of the U.S. Constitution; minister to France; creator of our currency and coinage; developer of the Erie Canal � he seemingly did everything and went everywhere. Yet he also found time to bed damsels from Philadelphia to Versailles, until, at 57, he married his housekeeper. (By the way, Morris managed all of this with only one arm and one leg.) Richard Brookhiser, in his continuing study of the Republic’s beginnings, captures this extraordinary man in Gentleman Revolutionary: Gouverneur Morris � The Rake Who Wrote the Constitution (New York: The Free Press). (Gouverneur was the maiden name of Morris’s mother.) A senior editor at The National Review, Brookhiser has previously written biographies of George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and the Adams family. Lawyering was in Morris’s bones. His grandfather was chief justice of the colonial New York Supreme Court, and his father was judge of the Court of Admiralty. He received a law degree from King’s College (later Columbia University) in 1771, and went on to practice banking and workout law, as well as litigation. Morris served in the Continental Congress during the Revolution and was the principal aide to Robert Morris (no relation), the financial wizard responsible for the fiscal affairs of the country under the Articles of Confederation. Together they personally guaranteed the country’s credit, founded the Bank of North America, and engaged in a series of grand financial schemes. Although Robert Morris ended up in debtors’ prison, our Morris ended up a very wealthy man. The Revolution was a hard period for Gouverneur Morris, since many in his family were loyalists. His home, Morrisania, was occupied and pillaged by the British army, even though his loyalist mother was living there. His older brother was a lieutenant general in the British army and a member of Parliament. The Morrises were prone to internecine battles, and the war exacerbated the family feuding. It’s worth noting that throughout his life � whether in law, business, investing, or government � Morris always sought the pen. He would draft what needed to be written, using uncommon skill and precision. For four days in 1787, Morris took the multitude of separate resolutions passed by the Constitutional Convention, which, Brookhiser writes, “he shaped and smoothed; and though he was a lawyer, he avoided as much as he could the endless repetitions that his profession loves.” The resulting document is a model of clarity and simplicity. The preamble is all Morris, and it sings: We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, to establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defense, 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. Note that he has “the people” as the acting party. He rejected naming the 13 separate states, the Almighty, or the convention. There are no overblown claims; he merely aspires to “a more perfect” union. And, of course, the word “union” had profound implications for America in the following century. Two years after the Constitutional Convention, Morris traveled to France, and was appointed ambassador by President Washington in 1792. Morris served as an adviser to, among others, Louis XVI of France; King George III and Prime Minister William Pitt of Great Britain; the king of Bavaria; and both Lafayette and Talleyrand. The diary that Morris kept during this period vividly describes the horror of the French Reign of Terror. In the end, he was the sole remaining foreign representative in Paris, and financially supported many friends who were victims of the revolutionary government. In revitalizing the Gouverneur Morris legacy, Brookhiser has done a great service to American history. The author shows that despite Morris’s mercurial views and conduct, his brilliance, energy, legal skills, financial acumen, public service, and unwavering dedication to the Republic place him among the first rank of the Founding Fathers. Wayne W. Whalen is a partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.

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