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FINAL SPEECH OF DR. FRANKLIN IN THE LATE FEDERAL CONVENTION*
I CONFESS that I do not entirely approve of this constitution at present : but, Sir, I am not sure I shall never approve it; for having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged by better information, or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise. It is, therefore, that the older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own
* Our reasons for ascribing this speech to Dr. Franklin, are its internal evidence, and its having äppeared with his name, during his life-time, uncontradicted, in an American periodical publication.
judgment, and to pay more respect to the judgment of others. Most men, indeed, as well as most seets in religion, think themselves in poffeffion of all truth, and that whenever others differ from them, it is so far error. Steel, a protestant, in a dedication, tells the pope, that “the « only difference between our 6 churches, in their opinions of the cer• “ tainty of their doctrines, is, the Romish “ church is infallible, and the church “ of England never in the wrong. But, though many private perfons think almost as highly of their own infallibility as of that of their sect, few express it so naturally as a certain French lady, who, in a little dispute with her sister, said, I don't know how it happens, filter, but I meet with nobody but myself that is always in the right. Il n'y a que mci qui a toujours raison. In these sentiments, Sir, I agree to this constitution, with all its faults, if they are such ; because I
think a general government necessary for us, and there is no form of government but what
be a blessing, if well administered ; and I believe farther, that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic government, being incapable of any other. I doubt, too, whether any other convention we can obtain, may be able to make a better constitution. For when you assemble a number of men, to have the advantage 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 á perfect production be expected ? It therefore astonishes me, Sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does; and I think it will astonish
our enemies, who are waiting with cơn fidence, to hear that our councils are confounded, like those of the builders of Babylon, and that our states are on the point of separation; only to meet hereafter for the purpose of cutting eacli other's throats.
Thus I consent, Sir, to this conftitu. tion, because I expect no better, and be: cause I am not sure that this is not the bests The opinions I have had of its errors, I sacrifice to the public good. I have never whispered a fyllable of them abroad. Within these walls they were born ; and here they shall die. If every one of us, in returning to our constituents, were to report the objections he has had to it, and endeavour to gain partisans in support of them, we might prevent its being generally received, and thereby lofe all the salutary effects and great advantages resulting naturally in our faa vour among foreign nations, as well as among ourselves, from our real or apparent unanimity. Much of the strength and efficiency of any government, in procuring and securing happiness to the people, depends on opinion ; on the general opinion of the goodness of that go. vernment, as well as of the wisdom and integrity of its governors.
I hope, therefore, that for our own fakes as a part of the people, and for the sake of our pofterity, we shall act heartily and unanimously in recommending this conftitution, wherever our infuence may extend, and turn our future thoughts and endeavours to the means of having ic well administered.
On the whole, Sir, I cannot help expressing a wish, that every member of the convention, who may still have objections, would with me, on this occafion, doubt a little of his own infallibility, and, to make manifest our unanimity, put his
name to this instrument.