Benjamin Franklin supports the Constitution (1787)


Speaking at the Philadelphia convention in September 1787, Benjamin Franklin offered his cautious and measured support for the new Constitution:


“I confess that I do not entirely approve of this Constitution at present. But I am not sure I shall never approve of it, for having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged… to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right but found to be otherwise…

I doubt 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 a perfect production be expected?

It therefore astonishes me 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, and that our States are on the point of separation, only to meet hereafter for the purpose of cutting one another’s throats.

Thus I consent to this Constitution because I expect no better, and because I am not sure that it is not the best. The opinions I have had of its errors I sacrifice to the public good… 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 government, as well as of the wisdom and integrity of its governors. I hope, therefore, for our own sakes… and for the sake of our posterity, that we shall act heartily and unanimously in recommending this Constitution wherever our influence may extend, and turn our future thoughts and endeavours to the means of having it well administered.

On the whole, I can not help expressing a wish that every member of the convention who may still have objections to it would, with me, on this occasion… put his name to this instrument.”