In An Incautious Man, historian Melanie Miller provides a succinct but sophisticated recounting of the life of one of our lesser-known but most engaging Founding Fathers: Gouverneur Morris. One of George Washington’s "surrogate sons," Morris played a profound role in ensuring the success of the American Revolution and the creation of the Constitution. Miller provides readers a look behind the closed doors of the Constitutional Convention, where Morris’s crystalline but passionate eloquence gave the debate a vitality that remains both enthralling and keenly meaningful for those of us whose lives have been decisively shaped by the results of that deliberation.
In 1792, Morris replaced Thomas Jefferson as the American minister to France. His experience there during the Terror is unparalleled in diplomatic history. As Miller tells it, Morris’s time in France is a story of conspiracy to help the king escape, of friends imprisoned and murdered, of seized ships and complex problems that had no precedent in the young nation’s history. Upon his return to the U.S., Morris served a brief stint in the Senate before going on to secure the building of the Erie Canal and to direct the design of the Manhattan network of streets we know today.
Despite personal afflictions—including the loss of a leg—Morris enjoyed an extraordinary, and extraordinarily influential, life. Miller’s fast-paced prose gives today’s readers a chance to share the great pleasure of his company.
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"In her engaging study An Incautious Man: The Life of Gouverneur Morris, Melanie Randolph Miller adds color to the customary and all-too-monochromatic group portrait of a handful of famous founders. Morris, draftsman of the Constitution’s Preamble, emerges as a lively and important figure who deserves to be added to that portrait. This book-and the series of which it is a part--will help readers understand in a more nuanced way the plurality of personalities and careers of those we call the Founding Fathers."
"Miller makes sure we appreciate his role in creating the Constitution and then trumps that achievement in the succeeding traversal of Morris' diplomatic service in Paris during the French Revolution. …With this keenly attractive profile, Miller joins Kauffman in brilliantly launching the Lives of the Founders series."
“Gouverneur Morris was one of the most important and arguably the most interesting of the American Founders. Miller has captured the essence of the man in this brief, fascinating, and highly readable volume.”
“Melanie Randolph Miller’s An Incautious Man is a lively and authoritative biography of a great New Yorker and key figure in the American Founding, Gouverneur Morris. It is especially valuable in providing insight into Morris’s early years and career leading up to the period of the American Revolution and his contributions to the framing of the Constitution. It supplements in important ways the author’s previous study, Envoy to the Terror, in recounting Morris’s exciting activities as the United States emissary to France during the French Revolution and Terror. A good read, warmly recommended.”
"Biographies like these cause us to rethink the founding, and question a 'Whig' history that leads inexorably to a Philadelphian Olympus. Capable, talented patriots like Martin did not think the Constitution perfect, nor did Morris see the nation as permanent when liberties were threatened. . . . ISI's serial retelling of the founding years brings to light some hard questions for conservatives who believe that the Constitution settled the important questions of governance in favor of federalism, localism, and the protection of liberty against big government."
"Melanie Miller has written an entertaining biography of this fascinating man. It is recommended for those interested in diplomacy, politics, law . . . and the early history of America."
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