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The Life of Gouverneur Morris

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and power of argument.  In these respects he resembled and equalled them, possessing at the same time more genius, more eloquence, and a greater versatility of character, than any of his predecessors.  His mathematical propensity adhered to him through life, and was of much service, particularly in his financial and mercantile operations.  He would amuse himself with rapid calculations in his mind, and the solution of arithmetical difficulties, unassisted by figures, and sometimes he found occasion for his higher skill in solving practical problems in physical science, such as relate to the velocity and power of running water, and the motion of machinery.

When he graduated as bachelor of arts, it fell to his lot to pronounce an oration before an audience assembled to witness the ceremonies of the day.  The city of New York being at that time the residence of the Governor and other officers of government, as well as of many of the principal families of the colony, a college commencement was likely to draw together as enlightened and polished an assemblage of hearers, as could be collected in any other part of the continent, and especially at a time when public amusements were few, and when the college had grown to be an object of considerable interest, on account of the conflicts of political parties in which the affairs of that institution had been made to mingle.

In selecting for the exercise of his unfledged powers the theme of 'Wit and Beauty,' our youthful orator was actuated more perhaps by a spirit of adventurous exeriment common at his age, than by the dictates of a mature judgment.  Be this as it may, he acquitted himself with credit, and won the applause of his auditory, both grave and gay, who saw, or imagined they saw, the fairest promise of the rich fruits of manhood in these buds and blossoms of young fancy and aspiring genius in a boy of sixteen.  A copy of this performance is preserved among his papers.  Amidst an exuberance of metaphors and rhetorical flourishes, which usually make so large an ingredient in commencement orations, there are not want-


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From The Life of Gouverneur Morris: With Selections from His Correspondence and Miscellaneous Papers; Detailing Events in the American Revolution, The French Revolution, and in the Political History of the United States, by Jared Sparks, Volume 1, Boston: Gray & Bowen, 1832, p 6. Some minor edits may have been made, but an attempt has been made to preserve the original spelling. Although some effort has been made to correct the limitations of OCR technology, if you find an error please report it to jvinci@colonialhall.com.

 
 


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Last modified August 20, 2006