Rather than verbiage from a mortal blogger, it is worthwhile to hear the entire closing speech of Franklin to the Constitutional Convention, calling for a unanimous signing of the document by all the delegates in attendance that morning (he wouldn’t get it, but he would get unanimous states’ approval, with various individual delegates deferring their imprimaturs on the document). The words were all Franklin, but James Wilson would read it in Franklin’s stead, Franklin claiming generalized exhaustion and hesitancy of speech. During the Convention, Franklin had been present non-stop for the four summer months, serving as the voice of gravitas, enlightenment (courtesy of Hume, Smith, and Lord Kames of Scotland), and compromise, and at least twice saving us from having two United States, north and south.
“Mr President [George Washington, presiding over the Constitutional Convention]:
“I confess that I do not entirely approve 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 oblig’d, 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 Judgment, and to pay more Respect to the Judgment of others. Most Men as indeed most Sects of Religion, think themselves in Possession of all Truth, and that wherever others differ from them it is so far Error. Steele, a Protestant in a Dedication tells the Pope, that the only Difference between our two Churches in their Opinions of the Certainty of their Doctrine, is the Romish Church is Infallible, and the Church of England is never in the Wrong. But tho’ many privates Persons 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, Sister, but I meet with no body but myself that’s always in the right. Il n’y a que moi 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, there is no Form of Government but what may be a Blessing to the People if well adminstred; and I believe farther this is likely to be well adminstred 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 a 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 Confidence to hear that our Councils 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 anothers Throats. Thus I consent, Sir, to this Constitution because I expect no better, and because I am not sure that it is not the best. The Opinion that I have had of its Errors, I sacrifice to the Public Good. I have never whisper’d a Syllable 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 Partizans in support of them, we might prevent its being generally received, and thereby lose all the salutary Effects and great Advantages resulting naturally in our favour 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 Government as well as of the Wisdom and Integrity of its Governors. I hope therefore that for our own Sakes, as a Part of the People, and for the sake of our Posterity 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 adminstred.”
Franklin offered nothing further than to rise and approach the engrossed document, and in tears sign his name. It was the culmination of 40 years of effort to free his beloved Pennsylvania, and he alone would sign his name to the Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Versailles of 1778 bringing France into the Revolution, the Peace of Paris of 1782 securing British cease-fire, the Treaty of Versailles of 1783 ending the Revolution, and now the Constitution of the United States of America. Well done, Dr. Franklin, first American, well done.