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Gouverneur Morris

Gouverneur Morris, The Constitution and Slavery

We have Gouverneur Morris to thank for the Preamble to our constitution.
He chose those famed words "We the People".

Consider Morris' thoughts on slavery.

1787. James Madison Report on Gouverneur Morris’ Address to the Federal Constitutional Convention

He never would concur in upholding domestic slavery. It was a nefarious institution. It was the curse of heaven in the States where it prevailed.

Compare the free regions of the Middle States, where a rich & noble cultivation marks the prosperity & happiness of the people, with the misery & poverty which overspread the barren wastes of Va. Maryd & the other States having slaves. Travel thro' the whole Continent & you behold the prospect continually varying with the appearance and disappearance of slavery. The moment you leave the E. Sts. & enter N. York, the effects of the institution become visible, passing thro' the Jerseys & entering Pa. every criterion of superior improvement witnesses the change. Proceed southwdly & every step you take thro' the great region of slaves presents a desert increasing, with the increasing proportion of these wretched beings.

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 (Philadelphia) are worth more than all the wretched slaves who cover the rice swamps of South Carolina.

The admission of slaves into the Representation when fairly explained comes to this: that the inhabitant of Georgia and S.C. who goes to the Coast of Africa, and in defiance of the most sacred laws of humanity tears away his fellow creatures from their dearest connections & damns them to the most cruel bondages, shall have more votes in a Govt. instituted for the protection of the rights of mankind, than the Citizen of Pa. and N. Jersey who views with a laudable horror, so nefarious a practice. ...

He would sooner submit himself to a tax for paying for all such negroes in the U. States, than saddle posterity with such a Constitution.

What was his opinion? Would he have been happy with the Great Compromise? What would Morris make of our Nation now?


"This country must be united. If persuasion does not unite it, the sword will." Gouverneur Morris (1752–1816)

 

Constitution of the United States of America at the National Archives

Gouverneur Morris: Gentleman Revolutionary

Gouverneur Morris represented Pennsylvania at the Convention in Philadelphia in 1787. He was the author of much of the Constitution. He wrote the preamble including the oft quoted phrase "We the People".

Meet the Author of U.S. Constitution's Preamble United States Department of State

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posted 8/2008 by Cynthia J. O'Hora, released to public domain

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