Gouverneur Morris (1752-1816) is credited with writing much of the U.S. Constitution, including its preamble. Morris attended the Constitutional Convention as a delegate for the state of Pennsylvania and advocated for a strong national government, an idea he supported during the Revolutionary War and its immediate aftermath, when most Americans considered themselves primarily citizens of their states rather than citizens of the new nation.
Early Life and Education
Gouverneur Morris was born to a wealthy New York family. At the age of 12, he entered King's College -- today's Columbia University -- and was graduated in 1768 at the age of 16. He delivered his class' commencement address, titled "Wit and Beauty." Three years later, as he received a master's degree, he gave a speech about liberty being the basis for love of country.
During the Revolutionary War
During the opening days of the American Revolution, Morris served both in New York's provincial congress and in a New York City militia unit. In 1776, he helped write New York's state constitution. He later served as a delegate for New York in the Continental Congress. During his time in the Continental Congress, he advocated for the training and equipping of the Continental Army. After Morris failed to win re-election to the Continental Congress in 1779, he moved to Philadelphia.
Gouverneur Morris served as assistant to the emerging nation's minister of finance while living in Philadelphia. He is credited with helping to stabilize the finances of the Congress of the Confederation -- the precursor to the U.S. Congress under the Articles of Confederation. Pennsylvania's legislature chose him to serve as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in 1787. During the convention, his helped prevent disagreements from dividing the fledgling government. He helped streamline the proposed constitution from 23 articles in the original draft to the seven which made it into the U.S. Constitution. He also wrote the Preamble. Although he wrote much of the Constitution, he did not play an active role in promoting its ratification by the states.
In 1782, while the American Revolution was still being fought, Morris introduced the decimal system of coinage that continues in use in the United States to this day. After the Revolution and Constitutional Convention, Morris served as ambassador to France during the French Revolution. He holds the distinction of being the only foreign diplomat to remain in Paris during the Reign of Terror. He later served as a senator with the Federalist Party from 1800 to 1803. His later years were devoted to civil engineering projects, including the design of Manhattan's street grid and chairmanship of the Erie Canal Commission for three years.
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