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Franklin’s Closing Confession
“I CONFESS that I do not entirely approve of this Constitution at present; but, sir, I am not sure I shall never approve of it,” Benjamin Franklin confessed to ...

Franklin’s Closing Confession

“I CONFESS that I do not entirely approve of this Constitution at present; but, sir, I am not sure I shall never approve of it,” Benjamin Franklin confessed to George Washington and the other delegates in his final speech at the Philadelphia Convention. He took the floor on September 17, 1787, to explain his decision to support the new constitution.

After watching the Constitutional Convention’s painful deliberations, he was more convinced than ever that most people believed they possessed “all truth.” Time may have tamed Franklin’s intemperate tongue, but it had not dulled his keen sense of humor.

Franklin added satirically that many people considered their own opinions better than others, including “a certain French lady, who, in a little dispute with her sister said: ‘But I meet with nobody but myself that is always in the right.’”

Franklin believed humility must be as much a hallmark of government as it is of righteousness. “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 may be a blessing to the people if well administered,” he said.

Although Franklin could see imperfection in their efforts “to form a more perfect Union,” he knew it was the best possible document for unity among the states. Timeless perfection was as unrealistic as touching the sun.

“I doubt, too, whether any other convention we can obtain may be able to make a better Constitution,” he opined, noting that any assembly of men bring with them passions, errors of opinion, local interests, and selfish views. “From such an assembly can a perfect production be expected?” he asked the delegates. “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 confidence to hear that our counsels are confounded like those of the builders of Babel.”

Franklin elevated excellence over perfection. He knew the ability to amend the document would give future Americans the opportunity to fix its flaws. “Thus I consent, sir, to this Constitution, because I expect no better, and because I am not sure that it is not the best,” Franklin confessed. “I hope, therefore, for our own sakes, as a part of the people, and for the sake of our posterity, that we shall act heartily and unanimously in recommending this Constitution wherever our influence may extend.”

An aging Benjamin Franklin hoped his acceptance of imperfection would lead the convention to unanimous consent in approving the new constitution. And with these words, the man who once wanted to die unlamented left a legacy of unity on America’s greatest compact.

Prayer

Father, teach me to voice my opinion to others in a respectful way.

“But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do will be spontaneous and not forced”

(Philemon 1:14).


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