I want to introduce you to a man we all know, yet we don’t even know his name.
I want to take the time to describe the man and his life before his name is given. I would like you to know his accomplishments, influence, words, and life so maybe you will remember a long-forgotten forefather that (through his writings and style) helped to change the entire world.
I want to remind you that the legacy we leave behind doesn’t always end with our name upon it. The marks and memories we carve into this world may not even impact us as living, breathing individuals. Yet, we could forever leave our mark on history without ever knowing the significance of the traces we left behind. It is the acts of an individual that, through their life’s work, future generations will measure their historical value and life’s worth against.
This is how real heroes are born, made, and forgotten, yet they still influence the world to this present day.
Just imagine if you will, for a moment, picture yourself listening to the sound of a deep voice and scraping peg leg hitting a wood floor as a tall, slender man walks about the wooden room. With every step, a loud thud as every word is echoing in the rafters of a solid wooden building. The creaking of the wooden seats as men move and scoff about in approval or disapproval of the words that rang loud from his lips.
“Upon what principle is it that the slaves shall be computed in the representation? Are they men? Then make them citizens, and let them vote. Are they property? Why, then, is no other property included? The houses in this city are worth more than all the wretched slaves who cover the rice swamps of South Carolina.” ~G. Morris
He felt so strongly about freeing the slaves he never swayed from believing that the United States should abolish it in the Constitution entirely.
How is it BLM doesn’t know his name? This man stood before his peers, expressing his beliefs, belonging to a free people under a united union of states. He was the only forefather who openly opposed slavery and wanted it abolished entirely. These peers he spoke before were no ordinary peers either. These were the most brilliant and most well-statured men of their day, filled with confidence, intelligence, and well-educated from years of studies. General George Washington, Benjamin Frankin, who was now an 81-year-old man in the year of the convention, and James Madison, to name a few that were present. This man spoke a total of 173 times before some of the most extraordinary minds we have ever known. How is it no one knows who I am talking about? But they know his writing, penmanship, and most famous words of all, “We the People.” He wrote the preamble to the United States Constitution and was a best friend to Washington and Hamilton. America, I would like to introduce one of our forgotten founding fathers, Gouverneur Morris.
Some would say the oddest forefather was none other than the mysterious Gouverneur Morris. Gouverneur Morris was born on January 31, 1752, in Province of New York, which we all know now as the Bronx. He was born into a family of wealthy landowners and lived on the family estates known as Morrisania. Morris was an aristocrat and very well educated. He went to Kings College, now known as Columbia University. After a gruesome carriage accident, his leg was broken in several spots. The town’s doctor felt it wasbest to amputate. So at age 28, Morris lost his leg (later, finding out it was unnecessary and could have been saved). Gouverneur’s family was divided during the American Revolutionary War; his brother Lewis Morris (who also signed the declaration of Independence) and he both sided with the Americas for a free and independent nation. While their other brother Staats Long Morris was a loyalist and major-general in the British army and their mother housed the British troops on Morrisania, the family estate. Gouverneur and his brother Lewis were homeless during the Revolutionary War.
Morris was one of the few men who lived in France during the revolution and the last remaining diplomat after. He advised and warned the French King, but Louis wouldn’t listen. Gouverneur witnessed the beheading of Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI during the French revolution. Morris wrote of the French people’s horrors in his diaries. Visions of diplomats and French politicians with their heads on pikes parading through the streets were noted in one of his entries. It was shocking that civilized people could behave in such barbaric ways. He was not only the ambassador to France, he also replaced Thomas Jefferson during some of the bloodiest battles in Frances’s history during this war. His work for the people of France should be more researched and learned about by our own people for the significance and influential role he played in the French revolution. He assured that the United States honored the people of France and the payment to their country even though they had no King. Morris also played a significant role in developing our own lands here in the United States. He is responsible for the Erie Canel and the grid street mapping in Manhattan, NY. One of the most influential men in the union other Benjamin Franklin, Morris, left his mark all over the United States and France.
Morris was admired by all of the founding fathers so much that he became head of the stylist committee and the final penmen of the United States Constitution. He was handpicked by a committee of the founding fathers themselves, including Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, and George Washington. These great men had such respect for Morris they entrusted the final Constitution that all the founding fathers signed into his care. Gouverneur Morris’s penmanship is known worldwide. Many countries try to replicate his writing style but are clueless about the life, troubles, and great speeches that lead up to one of the most influential and studied documents on earth today. So why is it we don’t know much anything about him? Why don’t they teach about him in school?
Morris was never secret about his love for the ladies, and some may even go as far as to say he was the original “ladies man.” Morris’s lifestyle was frowned upon as a bachelor with no ties and many affairs that stretched over two continents. Even with his peg leg, the ladies found Gouverneur quite irresistible and charming. He once told General George Washington that his secret was keeping the ladies happy. It was one affair in particular that I found very interesting. While serving as the ambassador to France, Gouverneur met and spent a lot of time with a woman named Comtesse Adélaïde de Flahaut. She was a writer and married to a well-established Count that was almost 35 years her senior. Morris shared his mistress with her Count husband and a French diplomat named Charles Maurice de Talleyrand. Talleyrand would later become the foreign minister to Neapolitan and would go on to sell the Louisiana Purchase to the United States of America. Connected?
Morris’s promiscuity is why we know so little of his significant accomplishments; the other founding fathers disapproved of his lifestyle and how he lived. Morris believed in the full benefits of living in a free society and lived as he pleased. Morris’s lifestyle would have been more than acceptable by today’s standards amongst relations in many opinions. We can find out more about the original ladies man and the world’s most known but forgotten man in his diaries during the French revolution.
Please click here to learn more about his three years with Comtesse Adélaïde de Flahaut and the other French liaisons he came to meet on his travels.
Morris Did finally marry and became a father for the first time at age 61 but died after performing a gruesome surgery on himself with whalebone a few short years later. Gouverner Morris died on November 6, 1816, in the same room he was born in 64 years earlier.
Many Americans don’t even know who Governeur Morris is. However, his impact on the founding fathers and our country is still very much alive in the spirit of America today. Morris is remembered around the world even though the world doesn’t know his name.
I hope that writing about his life and works will help people see that our names sometimes are never mentioned, but our actions change the world. People may never know who we are or what we’ve done, but it’s the works of our life that future generations will weigh our worth upon. These are legacies, these are heroes, and these are the people that have something worth leaving behind!