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Quote > This is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in Despotism...
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, and 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.

[See the link for the full text. Note that Franklin was saying he wasn't sure he could tell if the Constitution was going to work out or not, but was going to go ahead and support it, ignoring his own complaints, because he couldn't think of any ways of improving on it at the moment. This is a double-edged sword: on the one hand, we have Franklin censoring himself for what he considers the good of the public, believing that having any Constitution at all was probably better than not, and being afraid that letting the public know about his misgivings would in the end abort the creation of this treasured Constitution; and on the other, we have Franklin doubting the Constitution's long-term viability, even doubting the viability of democracy itself. Can we live with this duality? A man who sees the flaws, yet ignores them?]

[I further fear that americans often take the Constitution for granted, as a thing that just 'is'. They also rest on their laurels, refusing to continue the great work that our so-called founding fathers started (at least, started here -- freedom and democracy are ancient concepts.) We have a document that at its inception was understood to be temporary -- many of its creators understood that governments come and go, and in fact, having just finished a revolution, this thought was quite clear in their minds. We've made plenty of changes to it over the years -- abolishing slavery, prohibiting alcohol, unprohibiting alcohol ... but we've gotten to the point where we look at new situations and ask "is this constitutional?" without really considering whether or not the constitution needs changing. Unless, of course, we're talking about marriage -- then it's obvious we need to do something drastic. Our relationship with our Constitution is really odd, is all. We hail it as a masterpiece, we willingly modify it when it doesn't suit us, but we also see it as the end-all-be-all of freedom and democracy, and ... it's just messed up.]

[Yes, I'll move the editorializing elsewhere later. Remind me.]

Continued at top
Attributed to :: Benjamin Franklin
Reference :: On the Constitution, Letter to the President (1787)
Link :: http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/benfranklin1787.htm
Owned by Unordained - Created on 08/04/2005 - Never edited

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