Kinder Institute: James Wilson, Gouverneur Morris, and the Constitution

Gouverneur Morris

Kinder Institute: “The Lost Constitution: The Success and Failure of James Wilson and Gouverneur Morris”


The Kinder Institute at the University of Missouri, a JMC partner program, will host JMC fellow Jonathan Gienapp for a Constitution Day lecture on the lost contributions of James Wilson and Gouverneur Morris to the drafting of the Constitution in 1787. In particular, Professor Gienapp will examine the questions of why their influence so rapidly dissipated and what this tells us about the creation of the Constitution.

No two delegates to the Constitutional Convention played a more significant role in shaping the United States Constitution than James Wilson and Gouverneur Morris. Yet they are largely forgotten today, dwarfed by more iconic Founders. Meanwhile, the Constitution they worked so hard to create has been lost. This talk excavates Wilson’s and Morris’s distinct brand of Founding-era constitutionalism, explores how they successfully incorporated much of it during the drafting of the Constitution in the summer of 1787, and examines how it rapidly disappeared within a mere decade. Understanding Wilson’s and Morris’s constitutionalism and why it was lost sheds fresh light on the original Constitution and its creation.

Friday, September 20, 2019 • 3:30 PM
Jesse Hall, Room 410 • University of Missouri

Free and open to the public

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Jonathan GienappJonathan Gienapp is an Assistant Professor in the History Department at Stanford University. Principally a scholar of Revolutionary and early republican America, he is particularly interested in the period’s political culture, constitutionalism, and intellectual history. More generally, he is interested in the method and practice of the history of ideas, especially how it might profit from mutually beneficial exchanges with other disciplines in the human sciences, particularly recent philosophy of language. Professor Gienapp is the author of The Second Creation: Fixing the American Constitution in the Founding Era (Harvard University Press, 2018), which was the winner of the 2017 Thomas J. Wilson Memorial Prize from Harvard University Press, and has published articles in Constitutional Commentary, Journal of the Early Republic, and Fordham Law Review.

Professor Gienapp is a JMC fellow.

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The Kinder Institute on Constitutional Democracy at the University of Missouri is an interdisciplinary, signature academic center on the Columbia campus, jointly operated by faculty from the Political Science and History Departments, in cooperation with other scholars across campus. It is dedicated to excellence in research, teaching, and community engagement on the subjects of American political thought, history, and institutions, with a particular emphasis on the ideas and events of the American Founding and their continued global impact and relevance today. It was created in 2015 by a generous gift from the Kinder Foundation, a family philanthropic foundation started by Rich and Nancy Kinder of Houston, Texas.

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