Monday, August 29, 2005

On Constitutions

On September 17, 1787, the final day of the American Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, the work of the delegates completed, Benjamin Franklin arose and handed a written speech to his Pennsylvania colleague James Wilson to read. “Mr. President,” Franklin had written, “I confess that there are several parts of this constitution which I do not approve, but I am not sure that I shall never approve them. 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 . . . . I doubt too whether any other convention we can obtain may be able to make a better constitution . . . . 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 . . . . Thus I consent, Sir, to this constitution because I expect no better, and because I am not sure that it is not the best.” This, of that revered document which, despite its imperfections and blemishes, has endured for two hundred eighteen years and guided us through our nations darkest days, a beacon to ourselves and to the world of shining freedom.

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