Columbians Ahead of Their Time
 Gouverneur Morris
Gouverneur Morris "This country must be united. If persuasion does not unite it, the sword will."

Gouverneur Morris (1752–1816)
Founding Father
King's College 1768

Revolutionary War–era statesman Gouverneur Morris made a lasting impact on the nation, the state, and the city as a drafter of the U.S. Constitution, a builder of the Erie Canal, and a creator of Manhattan's street grid.

Morris graduated from King's College in 1768, delivering the commencement address "Wit and Beauty." The scion of a prominent New York family whose manor gave the Morrisania section of the present-day Bronx its name, Morris and his older brother Lewis, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, sided with the revolutionaries even as their mother and sisters remained loyal to the crown. After the Revolutionary War, Morris served in the Continental Congress and as assistant to the minister of finance, proposing the decimal system for the national currency and inventing the word cent in the process. As a Constitutional Convention delegate, he is acknowledged to have given final form to the U.S. Constitution, paring the original draft of 23 articles to seven and writing the document's preamble. He also inserted the famous phrase "We the people" at the beginning. As James Madison said, "The finish given to the style and arrangement of the Constitution fairly belongs to the pen of Mr. Morris." Morris later served as a diplomatic agent in England, as U.S. minister to France during the French Revolution's Reign of Terror, and as a U.S. senator. In 1811, he chaired a three-man commission that transformed Manhattan Island by designing its 12-avenue, 155-street grid above Houston Street. He also chaired the Erie Canal Commission for three years, but did not live to see the canal's completion.

Read more about Gouverneur Morris in the Columbia Encyclopedia


Columbians and Anglo-American relations.

John Jay Papers

Morris's revolutionary colleague

DeWitt Clinton

New York builder

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