« السابقةمتابعة »
unless such as she may please (for her own sake) to afford, or else the pity of her enemies, and the insignificance of slaves, beneath the attention of a generous foe."-vol. i. p. 103.
After the declaration of independence, and the confusion and disasters that ensued from the military operations in the province of New York, the assembly assumed a migratory character, and was held in various spots. Mr. Morris remained a firm and active member; and when it became necessary to form a constitution for the state, and organize its establishment, the burthen chiefly rested upon him, Mr. Jay, Mr. Livingston, and some few others. Mr. Morris was one of the first delegates to Congress under the new constitution of New York. He had now been nearly three years in public life, and he entered Congress with a reputation for talent and general intelligence, zeal, and activity in business, probably not surpassed by that of any other person of his age in the country, being not yet twenty-six years old. On the very day that Mr. Morris presented his credentials, he was appointed on a committee of great importance, which rendered it necessary for him and four others to repair to the army, then encamped at Valley Forge, with a view to its regulation. It was here that the friend ship with General Washington commenced; it knew no change until death removed one of the parties from its enjoyment. Mr. Morris was always honoured with the esteem, confidence, and approbation of that great man. Whilst here, he wrote a letter to his friend Jay, dated Valley Forge, Feb. 1, 1778, which we shall quote, as bringing our readers more familiarly acquainted with the spirit and views of the writer.
6 • Dear Jay,
Congress have sent me to this place, in conjunction with some other gentlemen, to regulate their army, and in truth not a little regulation has become necessary. Our quartermaster and commissary departments are in the most lamentable situation. Opportunities have been neglected in the last campaign which were truly golden ones, but omnipotent fatality had, it seems, determined that the American capital should fall. Our sentiments on this occasion are so perfectly coincident, that I will not enlarge.
“. The mighty Senate of America is not what you have known it. The Continental Congress and currency have both depreciated, but, in the hands of the Almighty architect of empires, the stone, which the builders have rejected, may easily become head of the corner. The free, open, and undisturbed communication with the city of Philadelphia, debauches the minds of those in its vicinage with astonishing rapidity. This State is sick even unto the death. Just before the reduction of the forts, the enemy balanced exactly upon the point of quitting the city, and a straw would have turned in either scale.
16 Our troops,—Heu misericors! The skeleton of an army presents itself to our eyes in a naked starving condition, out of health, out of spirits. But I have seen Fort George in the summer of 1777. Next campaign I believe we shall banish these troublesome fellows.* For Heaven's sake, my dear friend, exert yourself strenuously in the great leading business of taxation. To that great wheel,“ thousand petty spokes and small annexments are mortised and adjoined.”. 1 earnestly entreat you, and my other friend, t fortia opponere pectora to that fatal system of limitation, which, if carried into execution, would be downright ruin, and in the ineffectual attempt will carry us to the brink of it. York Town and its neighbourhood, although near ninety miles from Philadelphia, already consider our money t almost as waste paper.
1. My love to Livingston. I shall write to him by this opportunity, if I can find time to send a long letter, which indeed I owe him. Remember me to Mrs. Jay, and believe me yours,
GOUVERNEUR MORRIS."" In October 1778, the instructions were prepared to be sent from Congress to Dr. Franklin, as minister plenipotentiary at the court of Versailles. It is an honourable testimony to the high standing of Mr. Morris that the task of drawing up these instructions was assigned to him, and the more so, as they were the first that had ever been sent to an American minister at a foreign court.
In February 1779, when a committee of five was appointed by Congress to consider certain important despatches from the American commissioners abroad, and communications from the French minister in the United States, Mr. Morris was placed at
The report of this committee, in its character and consequences, was perhaps the most important brought forward during the war. It became the basis of the peace, and embraced all the points then deemed essential or advisable to be urged in a treaty with England. This report was discussed in all its multifarious bearings from time to time for upwards of six months. In these debates, Mr. Morris took a large share and a prominent lead. When they came to an end, the results were embodied by him in drafts of instructions to the ministers, afterwards to be appointed for making peace, and were unanimously adopted by Congress without change.
These occupations, it may be supposed, utterly consumed the time and labour of Mr. Morris; but it was likewise necessary that he should provide the means of his support, by following in some
* " That is, the British troops in Philadelphia.” + " Doubtless Robert R. Livingston.”
"The paper inoney issued by the state of New York."
measure the business of his profession. When applied to, not many years before his death, for written materials respecting events of the revolution in which he had been personally engaged, he gave the following account of the manner in which he was employed during the time he was a member of Congress.
““I have no notes," said he," or memorandums of what passed during the war. I led then the most laborious life which can be imagined. This you will readily suppose to have been the case, when I was engaged with my departed friend, Robert Morris, in the office of finance. But what you will not so readily suppose is, that I was still more harassed while a member of Congress. Not to mention the attendance from eleven to four in the House, which was common to all, and the appointment to special committees, of which I had a full share, I was at the same time Chairman, and of course did the business of three standing committees, viz, on the commissary's, quarter. master's, and medical departments. You must not imagine that the members of these committees took any charge or burden of the affairs. Necessity, preserving the democratical forms, assumed the monarchical substance of business. The chairman received and answered all letters and other applications, took every step which he deemed essential, prepared reports, gave orders, and the like, and merely took the members of a committee into a chamber, and for the form's sake made the needful communication, received their approbation, which was given of course. I was moreover obliged to labour occasionally in my profession, as my wages were insufficient for my support. I would not trouble you with this abstract of my situation, if it did not appear necessary to show you why I kept no notes of my services, and why I am perhaps the most ignorant man alive of what concerns them.' All the papers he has left pertaining to that period, as well as the printed records, confirm the accuracy of this picture of his life in Congress."-vol. i. pp. 217, 218.
Mr. Morris was twice elected by his state to Congress; the third time he was superseded. During the whole period of his official duties he had not been able to make a single visit to his native province; and it was alleged against him that in urging the general interests of the country, he was forgetful of the peculiar objects of the state for which he was a member. The state, however, had other members, against whom this charge could not be made, and who were sufficient for the dispatch of its business. In all probability the charge was a mere manæuvre, and his displacement is to be attributed to the preponderance of private intrigue. Be this as it may, Mr. Morris once more became a private individual-was adopted as a citizen of Pennsylvania, and established himself as a lawyer in Philadelphia.
Though Mr. Morris retired from a public situation, he by no means abandoned public affairs. He found leisure to take into
minute consideration the finances of the country, which in the year 1780 had assumed a very gloomy aspect. The doctrines of Mr. Morris were mostly adopted in practice, and many of the truths which he then announced have become familiar. The topics he discussed, the currency, the coinage, the Banks of America, though deeply interesting to the States, even to the present day, would scarcely bear analysis in a work intended for European readers. Suffice it to say, they convinced the whole of the republic of Mr. Morris's thorough mastery of that subject, and probably led, when the different departments of the executive came to be organized, to his appointment as assistant financier to his friend Robert Morris, a man of great ability and sterling integrity. This office seems to answer to a Secretary to the Treasury, or deputy Chancellor of the Exchequer with us. In this position Mr. Morris remained some time, and was occupied in many useful labours. One of the ablest of his publications was on the establishment of a bank; and he was, in fact, the planner of the first bank in the United States. The situation of assistant financier Mr. Morris retained till the end of the war, when he retired from that office, and betook himself anew to the practice of the law. He was also more or less associated with Robert Morris in his mercantile affairs and other speculations, sometimes acting as bis agent, at others devising plans of new adventure, purchases of stocks, of lands, or any other projects which promised successful results, and the means of accumulating property, By their long intimacy, though not at all related, they had acquired a perfect knowledge of each other's character, which, strengthened by a mutual confidence, enabled them to co-operate with double effect in executing the splendid schemes of enterprise which marked the career, both private and public, of the great American financier.
Mr. Morris now found some leisure to visit his birth-place. His father had only slenderly provided for Gouverneur after taking care of his education, but with the assistance of his friends he now became the possessor of the paternal estate of Morrisania, which falling to his elder brother, General Morris, who had no intention of residing in America, he was naturally glad to transfer to Gouverneur.
Somewhere about this time too, Mr. Morris had the misfortune to be thrown from his phaeton in the streets of Philadelphia. The accident was attended by a severe fracture of the leg, and subsequent amputation. He bore the operation with the utmost coolness, and the day after, made some remarks upon the subject that have been thought worth preserving.
" The day after the accident occurred, a friend called to see him, who thought it his duty to offer as much consolation as he could on an event so melancholy. He dwelt upon the good effects which such a trial would produce on his character and moral temperament, and the diminished inducements it would leave for seeking the pleasures and dissipations of life, into which young men are too apt to be led. • My good Sir,' replied Mr. Morris, ' you argue the matter so handsomely, and point out so clearly the advantages of being without legs, that I am almost tempted to part with the other.'
“To another person, who visited him on the same occasion, and gave utterance to his feelings of sympathy and regret, he replied ; O'Sir, the loss is much less than you imagine ; I shall doubtless be a steadier man with one leg than with two.'
“ A plain wooden leg, or what was scarcely more than a rough stick properly fitted to the limb, was the remedy for this loss, and he soon acquired such a facility in its use, that it gave him little trouble, either in walking, or in other movements of his body. After he arrived in Europe, he saw people walking about with cork legs, and making a figure as he conceived so much more graceful than his limb of oak, that he resolved to try the experiment. A leg maker was sent for, and various contrivances fabricated, but he found fault with them all, and after a short trial he dismissed the artist and his cork inventions, and returned to the simplicity of his original substitute, which he never again laid aside. On one occasion he asked a favour for his wooden leg, which was readily granted, although a serious encroachment on court etiquette; and this was, that when he should be introduced to the king of France, as Minister from the United States, he should be allowed to appear without a sword.”—vol. i. pp. 224.
Mr. Morris resided seven years in Pennsylvania, and was elected a delegate for that extensive state to the Convention appointed for drawing up a constitution. Of this Convention, which sat for four months, Mr. Morris was one of the most useful members, and his share in the formation of the constitution may be considered as the greatest work in which he was called to co-operate. After long and arduous discussion, the Convention at length agreed upon the articles, and placed the drafts in Mr. Morris's hands to receive their final form. In the words of Mr. Maddison,
the talents and taste of the author were stanıped on the face of it.”
On the promulgation of the constitution, Mr. Morris retired to Morrisania, and afterwards was called by his mercantile affairs into Virginia. Large contracts had been entered into by Robert Morris for supplying France with tobacco, and as Virginia was the centre of that traffic, it was necessary to have an agent on the spot. After staying a great portion of a year there, Mr. Morris determined on a voyage to Europe. He was amply supplied with the proper introductions by Washington, and set sail, in a private capacity, for France at the latter end of the year 1788.