How to Write a Constitution

Linda Colley at Literary Review:

Morris’s writing took many forms. As well as maintaining a diary, he penned poems in multiple languages to the many women he seduced over the years in Europe and the United States (‘I know it to be wrong, but cannot help it’). He translated lines from Greek and Roman classics and produced pamphlets on finance and commerce. He also wrote the American constitution, quite literally. One of the fifty-odd delegates who met in Philadelphia over the summer of 1787 to draft this document, Morris chaired the constitutional convention’s ‘committee of style’ (the fact that a committee of this sort was judged desirable is suggestive). It was Morris, James Madison records, who was chiefly responsible for ‘the finish given to the style and arrangement’ of the American constitution. Most dramatically, it was he who replaced its initial matter-of-fact opening with one of the most influential phrases – and pieces of fiction – ever devised: ‘We the People of the United States…’

more here.