"We the People of the United States" is perhaps the most famous phrase in the Constitution—and it was penned by one of the most mysterious Founding Fathers. Gouverneur Morris, who was born in the Bronx and spent many years in Europe, might not top the list of the best Founding Fathers, but he certainly was the wildest of the bunch. None of the Founding Fathers were saints, but Morris led the craziest life.
From having trysts at the Louvre to losing a leg in an adultery-driven accident to vehemently opposing slavery, Morris is a fascinating character.
Morris Liked Getting Busy In Public Places, Including The Louvre
Morris didn’t marry until he turned 57, and during his bachelor years, he had quite a few romantic escapades — one of which cost him a leg. In a different escapade while he was in France, Morris carried on an extended affair with a married woman who lived in the Louvre.
Before it became one of the most famous art museums in the world — home to the Mona Lisa — the Louvre was a palace for the French King. And Morris’s lady friend happened to live there. Morris recorded their love affair in his diary, using the word “celebrating” as code for sex. If the diaries are any indication, apparently the two liked to take risks. One of his diary entries talked about having sex in the hallway with the doors open.
Go to the Louvre… we take the Chance of Interruption and celebrate in the Passage while [Mademoiselle] is at the Harpsichord in the Drawing Room. The husband is below. Visitors are hourly expected. The Doors are all open.
He didn’t record whether they were caught.
Morris Attempted Surgery On His Urethra With A Whalebone, And It Killed Him
Late in life, Morris experienced a blockage in his urethra, which gave him trouble urinating. Today, scholars believe he may have been suffering from prostate cancer. The crafty Founding Father took a DIY approach to the problem; he attempted to treat the blockage by sticking a piece of whalebone up his urethra. In the process, he caused a great deal of damage and killed himself.
Days after he died, a Boston newspaper reported that Morris died from "a short but distressing illness."
Morris Married A Housekeeper Accused Of Adultery And Murder
For years, Morris never settled down, preferring instead to spend his time romancing married women. But he shocked the world when, at the age of 57, he married his housekeeper—and that was only the beginning.
At a Christmas party in 1809, Morris announced he had just married Anne Gary Randolph, who was 22 years younger than the Founding Father. Anne—known as Nancy—had a reputation dating back to 1792, when she was accused of adultery and murder. At the time, Nancy, who was just 17, reportedly slept with her brother-in-law. The illicit union produced a baby who died shortly after birth. Nancy was put on trial for murder, though she insisted the baby had been stillborn. She was eventually acquitted.
On the day he married Nancy, Morris wrote in his diary, “I marry this day Anne Gary Randolph. No small surprise to my guests.”
Morris Lost His Leg After Sleeping With A Married Woman
Morris lost his leg at age 32 after he was hit by a carriage. But what sounds like a simple accident goes much deeper. The incident happened in Philadelphia at the intersection of Logan's Alley and Dock Street, according to historian Dave Kimball. Morris, who had a reputation as a ladies' man, found himself in hot water after a furious husband learned that the Founding Father was sleeping with his wife.
Morris was running from the scorned husband when a carriage ran over his leg, and it had to be amputated. After the accident, one of Morris's friends optimistically hoped that the new peg leg might help Morris avoid the "the pleasures and dissipations of life, into which young men are too apt to be led." In response, Morris quipped, "You argue the matter so handsomely, and point out so clearly the advantages of being without legs, that I am almost tempted to part with the other."