Mandeville, LA -If you have ever wondered which of the Founders who attended the Federal Convention of 1787 actually wrote the text, using a quill pen, of the Constitution, including the beautiful “We The People” script, wonder no more. In this letter, written at the fever pitched height of the Hartford Convention/Secession Crisis of 1814, Morris settles the mystery once and for all. Morris had attended the convention representing PA although he was from New York and spent the rest of his political life there. – Mike Church
Letter of Gouverneur Morris
To Timothy Pickering, In Congress.
Morrisania, December 22nd, 1814
My Dear Sir,
I have received yours of the fifteenth. While I sat in the Convention, my mind was too much occupied by the interests of our country to keep notes of what we had done. Some gentlemen, I was told, passed their evenings in transcribing speeches from shorthand minutes of the day. They can speak positively on matters, of which I have little recollection. My faculties were on the stretch to further our business, remove impediments, obviate objections, and conciliate jarring opinions. All which I can now do is to ask myself what I should do were questions stated anew ; for, in a I probability, what I should now do would be what I then did, m sentiments and opinions having undergtne no essential change in forty years.
Propositions to countenance the issue of paper money, and the consequent violation of contracts, must have met with all the opposition I could make. But, my dear Sir, what can a history of the Constitution avail towards interpreting its pro- visions. This must be done by comparing the plain import of the words, with the general tenor and object of the instru- ment. That instrument was written by the fingers, which write this letter.* Having rejected redundant and equivocal terms, I believed it to be as clear as our language would per- mit; excepting, nevertheless, a part of what relates to the judi- ciary. On that subject, conflicting opinions had been maintain- ed with so much professional astuteness, that it became neces- sary to select phrases, which expressing my own notions would not alarm others, nor shock their selflove, and to the best of my recollection, this was the only part which passed without cavil.
But, after all, what does it signify, that men should have a written Constitution, containing unequivocal provisions and limitations? The legislative lion will not be entangled in the meshes of a logical net. The legislature will always make the power, which it wishes to exercise, unless it be so organ- ized, as to contain within itself the sufficient check. At- tempts to restrain it from outrage, by other means, will only render it more outrageous. The idea of binding legislators by oaths is puerile. Having sworn to exercise the powers grant- ed, according to their true intent and meaning, they will, when they feel a desire to go farther, avoid the shame if not the guilt of perjury, by swearing the true intent and mean- ing to be, according to their comprehension, that which suits their purpose.
I think it useless to discuss the discussions of your Ghent negotiation, which has kept the quidnuncs gaping for so ma- discuss ny months. Indeed it might seem invidious in one, who has the been a member of our diplomacy. There is no lack of ge- discuss nius and invention in our ministers. They may, however, be ions taught by experience, that it is easier to write an epigrammatic of epistle, than to succeed in the transaction of great business. yo I thought the enemy’s first overture should have been seized. ur I saw nothing in it, which touched our honor, nothing, which Gh impaired our interest. I speak of his sine quo non, for all the en rest appeared to be a reciprocation of our own extravagance. t You, who have seen the whole of our Cabinet’s instructions, can say whether my conjecture, for I have no information, is well founded. It seemed to me that our negotiators had, by reason of their distance from home, a good game in hand. Had they made a treaty, containing a reciprocal Indian arti- cle, declaring that, though it exceeded their instructions, they agreed to it, subject to the President’s superior wisdom, it would have given him three months’ chance of contigency.
I care nothing now about your actings and doings. Your decree of cooscriptions and your levy of contributions are alike indifferent to one whose eyes are fixed on a star in the east, which he believes to be the day-spring of freedom and glory. The madmen and traitors assembled at Hartford will, I believe, if not too tame and timid, be hailed hereafter as patriots and sages of their day and generation. May the blessing of God be upon them, to inspire their councils and prosper their resolutions.