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The Diaries of Gouverneur Morris

New York, 1799-1816
Gouverneur Morris. Edited by Melanie Randolph Miller

BUY Cloth · 1024 pp. · 7 × 10 · ISBN 9780813939797 · $99.50 · Feb 2018

On January 5, 1799, a day that was "cold and like for Snow," Gouverneur Morris left the city of New York after dinner and then, as he recorded in his diary, went "to my House at Morrisania, where I arrive at Dusk after an Absence of above ten Years." Those ten years had been spent in the ferment of the French Revolution and traveling the roads of a Europe at war with France. Now, back in the United States, this Founding Father began what would be yet another extraordinary chapter in a remarkable life. From the turn of the century—which ended with the death of Washington—until his own death in November 1816, Morris saw the first stages of fulfillment of his youthful predictions about America's rapid growth and advancement. He made his own signal contributions, promoting the sale of huge tracts of land in upstate New York and planning development to encourage settlers to move and begin its transformation; planning and advocating for construction of the Erie Canal; and leading the commission in charge of the design of the Manhattan street grid, which has for two hundred years shaped the most powerful city in the world. He also experienced the transition from a national government dominated by the Federalists to one in which the Democratic-Republicans, with Thomas Jefferson as their standard-bearer, took power, consolidated it, and from 1801 through the remainder of Morris's life, dictated the country's course. Morris could not stop this inexorable change to the political landscape, but expressed in his usual powerful and incisive language the outrage he felt at the policies and diplomatic ineptitude of Jefferson and Madison and the resulting economic setbacks to the nation, which culminated in the War of 1812.

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