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Gentleman Revolutionary: Gouverneur Morris - The Rake Who Wrote the…

av Richard Brookhiser

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
207595,719 (3.8)1
Since 1996, Richard Brookhiser has devoted himself to recovering the Founding for modern Americans. The creators of our democracy had both the temptations and the shortcomings of all men, combined with the talents and idealism of the truly great. Among them, no Founding Father demonstrates the combination of temptations and talents quite so vividly as the least known of the greats, Gouverneur Morris. His story is one that should be known by every American -- after all, he drafted the Constitution, and his hand lies behind many of its most important phrases. Yet he has been lost in the shadows of the Founders who became presidents and faces on our currency. As Brookhiser shows in this sparkling narrative, Morris's story is not only crucial to the Founding, it is also one of the most entertaining and instructive of all. Gouverneur Morris, more than Washington, Jefferson, or even Franklin, is the Founding Father whose story can most readily touch our hearts, and whose character is most sorely needed today. He was a witty, peg-legged ladies' man. He was an eyewitness to two revolutions (American and French) who joked with George Washington, shared a mistress with Talleyrand, and lost friends to the guillotine. In his spare time he gave New York City its street grid and New York State the Erie Canal. His keen mind and his light, sure touch helped make our Constitution the most enduring fundamental set of laws in the world. In his private life, he suited himself; pleased the ladies until, at age fifty-seven, he settled down with one lady (and pleased her); and lived the life of a gentleman, for whom grace and humanity were as important as birth. He kept his good humor through war, mobs, arson, death, and two accidents that burned the flesh from one of his arms and cut off one of his legs below the knee. Above all, he had the gift of a sunny disposition that allowed him to keep his head in any troubles. We have much to learn from him, and much pleasure to take in his company.… (mer)

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This is a biography of Gouverneur Morris. Gouverneur is his first name, which came from his mother. Gouverneur was her surname. Mr. Morris led a very interesting life and had ongoing associations with not only many of our founding fathers (Alexander, Washington, Franklin), but also leaders in France. He had two physical challenges: his right arm was practically destroyed as a result of a burn as a boy, though he kept the arm, and his left leg was amputated in an accident which characterizes much of his personal life. The story may be (historical events with multiple sources tend to blur truth) that he severely injured his leg when he threw himself out of a moving carriage just as he was about to be discovered with another mans wife. The doctors advised him that the leg was too damaged to be saved and he quickly agreed. Ironically, his own doctor later told him the amputation was foolish. How ironic. Interestingly, Morris was a body double for a famous statue of George Washington, who was like him in stature. It was an interesting read. ( )
  BrannonSG | Jan 26, 2016 |
Another great biography of an exceptional mind; a person lesser known as a Founding Father, but one who synthesized the verbose Constitution into a concise document.

It is almost assured that Richard Brookhiser smiled every day as he drafted the manuscript for this book. He likely savored the witty epigrammatic Morris as Mr. Brookhiser liberally infuses his tomes with the clever turn of thought. As some reviewers have lamented, as is so common I am finding, this book was too brief as an encapsulation of Gouverneur Morris's life and times. I once again concur it was fast paced and informative, but deviate from the opinion it was too laconic. With a man so busy in personal, business and political realms, to tediously delve into day-by-day goings-on would take several volumes.

As Mr. Brookhiser explains in his introduction, readers of historical biographies complain that these books tend to start in middle of their life, as if that is all they were about; equally aggravating is that readers don't necessarily care to read about an infant revolutionary - because there aren't any! So the book details a few of the subjects major childhood experiences and his familial background to build a base upon which to provide context of Morris's thinking. Mr. Brookhiser leaves it to other historians to fill a whole book discussing and dissecting the drafting of the constitution; he doesn't avoid it, however, there are a few pages devoted to comparing the draft document before and after Gouverneur puts quill pen to parchment. Similarly, countless books discuss myriad of facets of the the several consecutive French revolutions. Mr. Brookhiser only relates some events and participants as they influence the experiences of the American minister to France.

Gouverneur Morris proves not all Founding Father's were Washington-esque in moral character; although Morris was his equal in stature. He had very few compatriots who could match his writing style, no one likely his superior in this field. A man who helped draft two constitutions and submitted his own to the French government, attempted to usurp marriages. A man who tried to bring fidelity to two nations, enjoyed wooing women that brought about infidelity to homes. Gentleman Revolutionary is an unflinching account for all aspects, providing equal light to both good and bad characteristics, of a truly revolutionary character. ( )
  HistReader | May 21, 2012 |
Caveat emptor, I guess: it turns out that this has 'National Review cooties' on it.
1 rösta AsYouKnow_Bob | Oct 10, 2007 |
Fun... but too short

After reading "Gentleman revolutionary", I found I wanted more on the life of Gouverneur Morris. Brookeiser's book just seemed to go by so darn quickly. But, I did, indeed, enjoy it.

I find that we Americans have spent so much time venerating our top five Founders (Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, Franklin and Madison/Adams tied for fifth) that we forget that it took hundreds of "founders" in that same era to midwife the country.

What about Pinckney, John Jay, Winthrop, Richard Heny Lee, and, yes, Gouverneur Morris? There are so many more that it would be impossible to mention them all in this short review.

At least, Brookhiser gave us a taste of a seldom-discussed Founder with this short bio. Even though Brookhieser obviously loves his subject, which in some reviewers leads to problematic reporting, it is chock full of interesting if not salacious tidbits. ( He married a woman accused of murder, was quite the ladies man, and even some sources claim Morris to be a deist though he was officially an Episcopalian)

Anyway, I hope to see Brookhiser do more on the Founders who are not household names. ( )
  WarnerToddHuston | Apr 7, 2007 |
The best biography of Gouverneur Morris I've read (although there's a new one out I have to read). ( )
  JBD1 | Jan 10, 2006 |
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Since 1996, Richard Brookhiser has devoted himself to recovering the Founding for modern Americans. The creators of our democracy had both the temptations and the shortcomings of all men, combined with the talents and idealism of the truly great. Among them, no Founding Father demonstrates the combination of temptations and talents quite so vividly as the least known of the greats, Gouverneur Morris. His story is one that should be known by every American -- after all, he drafted the Constitution, and his hand lies behind many of its most important phrases. Yet he has been lost in the shadows of the Founders who became presidents and faces on our currency. As Brookhiser shows in this sparkling narrative, Morris's story is not only crucial to the Founding, it is also one of the most entertaining and instructive of all. Gouverneur Morris, more than Washington, Jefferson, or even Franklin, is the Founding Father whose story can most readily touch our hearts, and whose character is most sorely needed today. He was a witty, peg-legged ladies' man. He was an eyewitness to two revolutions (American and French) who joked with George Washington, shared a mistress with Talleyrand, and lost friends to the guillotine. In his spare time he gave New York City its street grid and New York State the Erie Canal. His keen mind and his light, sure touch helped make our Constitution the most enduring fundamental set of laws in the world. In his private life, he suited himself; pleased the ladies until, at age fifty-seven, he settled down with one lady (and pleased her); and lived the life of a gentleman, for whom grace and humanity were as important as birth. He kept his good humor through war, mobs, arson, death, and two accidents that burned the flesh from one of his arms and cut off one of his legs below the knee. Above all, he had the gift of a sunny disposition that allowed him to keep his head in any troubles. We have much to learn from him, and much pleasure to take in his company.

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