Saturday, May 31, 2008

Sherman on Morris:

If I asked you to guess the randiest of America's founders, you'd probably guess Ben Franklin. Arguably you'd be wrong. Gouverneur Morris was an avid and unrepentant adulterer and fornicator. He attempted to seduce many married women including Dolly Madison. Arguably he was even more licentious than Franklin.

As his biographer Richard Brookhiser put it in this interview: "If you were broke, or in jail, or had lost the dearest person in your life, and you needed money, help, or consolation, the first Founder you would call would be Morris." Yet, Brookhiser joked, if you had him over for dinner you'd never seat him next to your wife or your daughter.

Sounds like "The Wolf" (Harvey Keitel's character) from Pulp Fiction.

On his religion he was either a theistic rationalist, or perhaps a strict deist. He certainly was no orthodox Christian. Morris was appointed US minister to France, in 1792. His fellow founder Roger Sherman, himself an orthodox Christian, testified about Morris' character, explaining why he opposed Morris' appointment:

Some observations respecting Mr. Morris' appointment having been already made, I shall explain the reasons why I shall not vote for his appointment, and that I may not be misunderstood I shall class my remarks under two heads, one having respect to Mr. Morris' natural capacity, & the other his moral character.

I ought in the first place to observe, that I bear Mr. Morris no ill will—1 have personally known him for several years; I have served with him in Congress, & was with him in the Convention of 1787. I have never been borne down by his superior Talents, nor have I experienced any mortifications from the manner in which he has treated me in debate. I wish him and all mankind holy and happy. I allow that he possesses a sprightly mind, a ready apprehension, and that he is capable of writing a good letter and forming a good Draft. I never have heard that he has betrayed a Trust, or that he lacks integrity—indeed I have not known him in any individually responsible station—In the State Legislature, in Congress, & in the Convention of 1787, he was one of many, and in the office of Finance his principal was responsible, and nothing for or against him can be inferred from these stations.

With regard to his moral character, I consider him an irreligious and profane man—he is no hypocrite and never pretended to have any religion. He makes religion the subject of ridicule and is profane in his conversation. I do not think the public have as much security from such men as from godly and honest men—It is a bad example to promote such characters ; and although they may never have betrayed a trust, or exhibited proofs of a want of integrity, and although they may be called men of honor—yet I would not put my trust in them—I am unwilling that the country should put their Trust in them, and because they have not already done wrong, 1 feel no security that they will not do wrong in future. General Arnold was an irreligious and profane character—he was called a man of honor, but I never had any confidence in him, nor did I ever join in promoting him. I remember he sued a man at New Haven for saying he had the foul disease—and it was urged that the Jury should give heavy damages, because Arnold was a man of honor and high-minded—but this same Arnold betrayed his Trust when he had an opportunity and would have delivered up the Commander in chief & betrayed his country. And the like has happened from other such characters ; and I am against their being employed and shall therefore vote against Mr. Morris. [My emphasis.]

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