Artist/Maker: Gilles-Louis Chrétien (1754-1811)
Dimensions: 5.1 (2 in.)
Provenance: Print Collection, The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations
Historical Notes: The amiable New York lawyer Gouverneur Morris was active in American politics beginning with the Revolution. He was a staunch supporter of Washington and a member of numerous Continental Congresses, where he helped frame the Constitution. Private business matters brought Morris to Paris in 1789, just before Jefferson returned to the United States. Although the two had political differences, Jefferson and Morris were frequent companions and went together to have their portraits taken by Chrétien and Quenedey. Later that year Jefferson included Morris among the guests at his farewell dinner, which was attended by distinguished Frenchmen, such as the marquis de Lafayette, and several Americans. "Mr. Jefferson lives well," Morris wrote in his diary, "keeps a good table and excellent wines which he distributes freely and by his hospitality to his country-men here possesses very much their good will."
Following Jefferson's departure from Paris, Morris was the most influential American in that city. Despite opposition to Morris from Jefferson and many senators, President Washington appointed him minister to France in 1792. The opposition to Morris's nomination centered on three issues, according to Jefferson:
1. His general character, being such that we would not confide in it. 2. His known attachment to monarchy & contempt of republican government and 3rd his present employment abroad being a news vender of back lands & certificates.
Morris's term as minister during the height of the French Revolution was brief but turbulent. After returning to the United States, he served a short term in the Senate before retiring in 1803 to his home in Morrisania, New York. Through his 1809 marriage to Anne Cary Randolph, Thomas Mann Randolph's sister, Morris became part of the extended Jefferson family. Jefferson displayed the Morris miniature in the Tea Room at Monticello; it is unlocated today.
- Text from Stein, Worlds, 200
931 Thomas Jefferson Parkway
Charlottesville, VA 22902