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title:“Gouverneur Morris to Henry W. Livingston”
authors:Gouverneur Morris
date written:1803-11-25

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 8:21 a.m. UTC
retrieved:Oct. 3, 2022, 9:40 p.m. UTC

Morris, Gouverneur. "Letter to Henry W. Livingston." The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787. Vol. 3. Ed. Max Farrand. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1911. Print.

Gouverneur Morris to Henry W. Livingston (November 25, 1803)

Morrisania, November 25th, 1803.
It is not possible for me to recollect with precision all that passed in the Convention, while we were framing the Constitution; and if I could, it is most probable, that a meaning may have been conceived from incidental expressions, different from that which they were intended to convey, and very different from the fixed opinions of the speaker. This happens daily.
I am very certain that I had it not in contemplation to insert a decree de coercendo imperio in the Constitution of America. Without examining whether a limitation of territory be or be not essential to the preservation of republican government, I am certain that the country between the Mississippi and the Atlantic exceeds by far the limits, which prudence would assign, if in effect any limitation be required. Another reason of equal weight must have prevented me from thinking of such a clause. I knew as well then, as I do now, that all North America must at length be annexed to us. Happy, indeed, if the lust of dominion stop there. It would, therefore, have been perfectly Utopian to oppose a paper restriction to the violence of popular sentiment in a popular government.1
[Footnotes as included or written by Farrand]
  • 1 See CCCIV below.
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