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Franklin's "Speech at the Convention"

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  • 1. Speech of Benjamin Franklin at Constitutional Convention, 1787 Comment [VC1]: What does Franklin confess as he begins his speech?Mr. President- I confess that there are several parts of this constitution which I do not at present approve, butI am not sure I shall never approve them: For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of beingobliged by better information, or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I Comment [VC2]: Being required to do somethingonce thought right, but found to be otherwise. It is therefore that the older I grow, the more apt I am to doubtmy own judgment, and to pay more respect to the judgment of others. Most men indeed as well as most sectsin Religion, think themselves in possession of all truth, and that wherever others differ from them it is so farerror. Steele a Protestant in a Dedication tells the Pope, that the only difference between our Churches intheir opinions of the certainty of their doctrines is, the Church of Rome is infallible and the Church of Englandis never in the wrong. But though many private persons think almost as highly of their own infallibility as of Comment [VC3]: Without faultthat of their sect, few express it so naturally as a certain french lady, who in a dispute with her sister, said "Idont know how it happens, Sister but I meet with no body but myself, thats always in the right- “Je ne trouveque moi qui aie toujours raison.” Comment [VC4]: Summary of the first paragraph- I don’t agree with everything in the Constitution, but I am old and have experiencedIn these sentiments, Sir, I agree to this Constitution with all its faults, if they are such; because I think a general many times when I have changed my mind. I have learned to trust others. No one is without fault andGovernment necessary for us, and there is no form of Government but what may be a blessing to the people if everyone thinks they know what is right.well administered, and believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and canonly end in Despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to Comment [VC5]: Absolute rule; tyrannyneed despotic Government, being incapable of any other. I doubt too whether any other Convention we canobtain, may be able to make a better Constitution. For when you assemble a number of men to have theadvantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those men, all their prejudices, their passions,their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views. From such an assembly can a perfectproduction be expected? It therefore astonishes me, Sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfectionas it does; and I think it will astonish our enemies, who are waiting with confidence to hear that our councilsare confounded like those of the Builders of Babel; and that our States are on the point of separation, only tomeet hereafter for the purpose of cutting one anothers throats. Thus I consent, Sir, to this Constitutionbecause I expect no better, and because I am not sure, that it is not the best. The opinions I have had of itserrors, I sacrifice to the public good. I have never whispered a syllable of them abroad. Within these walls theywere born, and here they shall die. If every one of us in returning to our Constituents were to report theobjections he has had to it, and endeavor to gain partisans in support of them, we might prevent its being Comment [VC6]: A supporter who takes sidesgenerally received, and thereby lose all the salutary effects and great advantages resulting naturally in our Comment [VC7]: Good; beneficialfavor among foreign Nations as well as among ourselves, from our real or apparent unanimity. Much of the Comment [VC8]: Everyone is in agreementstrength and efficiency of any Government in procuring and securing happiness to the people, depends, on Comment [VC9]: Can accomplish much quicklyopinion, on the general opinion of the goodness of the Government, as well as of the wisdom and integrity of Comment [VC10]: Moral and ethically correct behaviorits Governors. I hope therefore that for our own sakes as a part of the people, and for the sake of posterity, weshall act heartily and unanimously in recommending this Constitution (if approved by Congress and confirmed Comment [VC11]: The futureby the Conventions) wherever our influence may extend, and turn our future thoughts and endeavors to the Comment [VC12]: Eventsmeans of having it well administered. Comment [VC13]: Summary of the second paragraph- A constitution forms the government and we need a government. I don’t think we can getOn the whole, Sir, I can not help expressing a wish that every member of the Convention who may still have a better Constitution. I am pretty impressed with what has been written. Even though I have doubts,objections to it, would with me, on this occasion doubt a little of his own infallibility, and to make manifest our you will never hear me say it in public.unanimity, put his name to this instrument. Comment [VC14]: to make it clear Comment [VC15]: Summary of the third paragraph- I want everyone, even those who still have problems with the Constitution to sign it – all of us- and put aside personal doubts for now. Comment [VC16]: This document, The Constitution

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