Gouverneur Morris


American Revolutionary War-era Statesman, Builder of the Erie Canal and Creator of Manhattan's Street Grid

Author Quotes

Americans need never fear their government because of the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation.

I anticipate the day when to command respect in the remotest regions it will be sufficient to say "I am an American."

If the people should elect, they will never fail to prefer some man of distinguished character, or services; some man, if he might so speak of continental reputation.

In adopting a republican form of government, I not only took it as man does his wife, for better, for worse, but what few men do with their wives, I took it knowing all its bad qualities.

It is the interest of all men, therefore, to seek for reunion with the parent state. A safe compact seems in my poor opinion to be now tendered. Internal taxation to be left with ourselves. The right of regulating trade to be vested in Britain, where alone is found the power of protecting it. I trust you will agree with me, that this is the only possible mode of union. Men by nature are free as the air. When they enter into society, there is, there must be, an implied compact, for there never yet was an express one, that a part of this freedom shall be given up for the security of the remainder. But what part? The answer is plain. The least part, considering the circumstances of the society, which constitute what may be called its political necessity. And what does this political necessity require in the present instance? Not that Britain should lay imposts upon us for the support of government, nor for its defense. Not that she should regulate our internal police. These things affect us only. She can have no right to interfere. To these things we ourselves are competent. But can it be said, that we are competent to the regulating of trade? The position is absurd, for this affects every part of the British Empire, every part of the habitable earth. If Great Britain, if Ireland, if America, if all of them, are to make laws of trade, there must be a collision of these different authorities, and then who is to decide the vis major? To recur to this, if possible to be avoided is the greatest of all great absurdities.

Political necessity therefore requires that this power should be placed in the hands of one part of the empire. Is it a question which part? Let me answer by asking another. Pray which part of the empire protects trade? Which part of the empire receives almost immense sums to guard the rest? And what danger is in the trust? Some men object, that England will draw all the profits of our trade into her coffers. All that she can, undoubtedly. But unless a reasonable compensation for his trouble be left to the merchant here, she destroys the trade, and then she will receive no profit from it.

Religion is the only solid basis of good morals; therefore education should teach the precepts of religion and the duties of man toward God.

Slavery is the curse of heaven on the States where it prevails.

The reflection and experience of many years have led me to consider the holy writings not only as the most authentic and instructive in themselves, but as the clue to all other history. They tell us what man is, and they alone tell us why he is what he is: a contradictory creature that seeing and approving of what is good, pursues and performs what is evil. All of private and public life is there displayed. ... From the same pure fountain of wisdom we learn that vice destroys freedom; that arbitrary power is founded on public immorality.

The rich will strive to establish their dominion and enslave the rest. They always did...they always will. They will have the same effect here as elsewhere, if we do not, by the power of government, keep them in their proper spheres.

They (the French) have taken genius instead of reason for their guide, adopted experiment instead of experience, and wander in the dark because they prefer lightning to light.

This magistrate is not the king. The people are the king.

We have seen the tumult of democracy terminate . . . as [it has] everywhere terminated, in despotism… Democracy! savage and wild. Thou who wouldst bring down the virtuous and wise to thy level of folly and guilt.

For avoiding the extremes of despotism or anarchy ... the only ground of hope must be on the morals of the people. I believe that religion is the only solid base of morals and that morals are the only possible support of free governments.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Wealth tends to corrupt the mind and to nourish its love of power, and to stimulate its oppression.

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American Revolutionary War-era Statesman, Builder of the Erie Canal and Creator of Manhattan's Street Grid