In the final book of his critically acclaimed works on the Founding Fathers, Brookhiser unveils one of American history's most charismatic, ...Show synopsisIn the final book of his critically acclaimed works on the Founding Fathers, Brookhiser unveils one of American history's most charismatic, delightful, and little known characters: Gouverneur Morris, the charming, one-legged rake and unsung genius of the American Revolution.Hide synopsis
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Gouverneur Morris was a writer but also the editor of the Constitution. He took some of the prolixity that was proposed and condensed it to something relatively understandable. This is a biography of the gentleman and thus covers more than the period of the Constitution's writing and 'endorsement' by the requisite number of states. Morris kept a diary while he was in France so Brookhiser provides such ideas as France situation before it's Revolution "resembled the United States's at the opening of the Constitutional Convention--war debt; a political system that blocked any revenue stream; a call for change." The biographer quotes Morris's advice to DeWitt Clinton after the death of VP George Clinton "[I]n the degenerate state to which democracy never fails to reduce a nation, it is almost impossible for a good man to govern, even could he get into power,or for a bad man to govern well." It seems an apt description to the current political situation. What I find extremely interesting for a gentleman of his era was Morris's treatment of his wife in his will. He gave her "a life interest in his property, plus an annuity of $2,600 a tear ($32,500 today). If she married again, her annuity would be increased to $3,200, 'to defray the increased expenditure, which may attend that condition.'" In an era when women were considered chattel more openly that they are now this was an interesting facet to his philosophy.
Morris, one of the most influential and but lesser known characters of the revolutionary period of the US is well described and many important facts of his influence on the better known 'players' of the war of independence are well described in good context.
This 'bio' covers his rakish life in even detail, including his unfortunate accidents with boiling water and losing his leg in an unfortunate menage.
His contributions in editing, and strongly influencing the written "US Constitution" , and as minister to France, replacing James Munroe, are well detailed.
His active hatred and unfortunate disregard for Thomas Pain's desire for help, while imprisoned for 10 months by Napolean Bonapart, and his somewhat dubious financial dealings could have received more attention. But then, any biography of such a colourful character as Morris' has to be tailored to fit a reasonable size manuscript.
Not a quick read, but a great historical description of the rich and varied political life of one of our lesser know but most influential Founding Fathers.
A great read, well written.
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