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FINAL SPEECH OF DR. FRANKLIN IN THE LATE FEDERAL CONVENTION.*
I CONFESS that I do not entirely approve of 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 obliged, 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, indeed, as well as most sects in religion, think themselves in possession of all truth, and that whenever others differ from them, it is so far error. Steel, a protestant, in a dedication tells the Pope, that "the only difference between our two churches, in their opinions of the certainty of their doctrines, is, the Romish church is infallible. and the church of England never in the wrong." But, though many private persons think almost as highly, of their own infallibility as 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 nobody but myself that is always in the right." Il n'y a que moi qui a toujours raison. In these sentiments, sir, I agree to this constitution, with all its faults, if they are
*Our reasons for ascribing this speech to Dr. Franklin, are its internal evidence, and its having appeared with his name during his life-time uncontradicteft, in an Americag Periodical publication.
such; because I think a general government necessary for us, and there is no form of government but what may be a blessing, if well administered; and I believe, farther, that this is likely to be well ad ministered 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 des potic government, being incapable of any other. I doubt too, whether any other convention we can ob tain, 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 as semble with those men all their prejudices, their pas sions, 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 60 near to perfection as it does; and I think it will astonish our enemies, who are waiting with confi dence, to hear that our councils are confounded, like those of the builders of Babylon, and that our States are on the point of separation, only to meet hereafter for the purpose of cutting each other's throats.
Thus I consent, sir, to this constitution, because I expect no better, and because I am not sure that this is not the best. The opinions I have had of its errors I sacrifice to the public good. I have never whisper ed 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 partisans 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, wo
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 Sir, I cannot help expressing a wish, that every member of the Convention, who may still have objections, would with me, on this occasion, doubt a little of his own infallibility, and, to make manifest our unanimity put his name to this instru
[The motion was then made for adding the last formula, viz.
Done in Convention, by the unanimous consent, &c. which was agreed to, and added accordingly.
PREFERENCE OF BOWS AND ARROWS IN WAR TO FIRE-ARMS.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL LEE.
Philadelphia, Feb. 11, 1776、
THE bearer, Mons. Arundel, is directed by the Congress to repair to General Schuyler, in order to he employed by him in the artillery service. He proposes to wait on you in his way, and has requested me to introduce him by a line to you. He has been an officer in the French service, as you will see by his commissions; and, professing a good will to our cause, I hope he may be useful in instructing our gunners and matrosses: perhaps he may advise in opening the nailed cannon.
I received the inclosed the other day from an offe cer, Mr. Newland, who served in the two last wars. and was known by General Gates, who spoke well of
him to me when I was at Cambridge. He is desir ous now of entering into your service. I have advised him to wait upon you at New-York.
They still talk big in England, and threaten bard but their language is somewhat civiler, at least not quite so disrespectful to us. By degrees they come to their senses, but too late, I fancy, for their inter
We have got a large quantity of saltpetre, one hundred and twenty ton, and thirty more expected. Powder mills are now wanting; I believe we must set to work and make it by hand. But I still wish, with you, that pikes could be introduced and I would add bows and arrows: these were good wea pons, and not wisely laid aside.
1. Because a man may shoot as truly with a bow as with a common musket.
2. He can discharge four arrows in the time of charging and discharging one bullet.
3. His object is not taken from his view by the smoke of his own side.
4. A flight of arrows seen coming upon them terri fies and disturbs the enemy's attention to his business.
5. An arrow sticking in any part of a man, puts him hors du combat till it is extracted.
6. Bows and arrows are more easily provided every where than muskets and ammunition.
1 Polydore Virgil, speaking of one of our battles against the French in Edward the Third's reign. mentions the great confusion the enemy was thrown into sagittarum nube, from the English; and con cludes, Est res profecto dictu mirabilis ut tantus ac petens exercitus a solis fere Anglicis sagittariis victus fuerit; adeo Anglus est sagittipotens, et id genus armorum valut." If so much execution was done by arrows when men wore some defensive armour, how much more might be done now that it is out of use!
I am glad you are come to New-York, but I also wish you could be in Canada. There is a kind of suspense in men's minds here at present, waiting to see what terms will be offered from England. I expect none that we can accept; and when that is generally seen, we shall be more unanimous and mor
decisive then your proposed solemn league and covenant will go better down, and perhaps most of our other strong measures be adopted.
I am always glad to hear from you, but I do not deserve your favours, being so bad a correspondent: My eyes will now hardly serve me to write at night, and these short days have been all taken up by such a variety of business that I seldom can sit down ten minutes without interruption. God give you success!
I am, with the greatest esteem,
ON THE THEORY OF THE EARTH.
TO ABBE SOULAIVE.
Passy, Sptember 22, 1782:
I RETURN the papers with some corrections. I did not find coal mines, under the calcareous rock in Derbyshire. I only remarked, that at the lowest part of that rocky mountain, which was in sight, there were oyster shells mixed with the stone; and part of the high country of Derby, being probably as much above the level of the sea, as the coal mines of Whitehaven were below, it seemed a proof that there had been a great bouleversement in the surface of that island, some part of it having been depressed under the sea, and other parts, which had been under it, being raised above it. Such changes in the superficial parts of the globe seemed to me unlikely to hap pen, if the earth were solid at the centre. I there.