SAN JOSÉ, January 17, 2017— Today is the birthday of one of the most important Founding Fathers who possibly could have served as the unofficial president of the United States. Sadly, Americans have never honored this man as they have done for others less remarkable. But, Benjamin Franklin, in his time was recognized as a Renaissance Man.
Born into a humble and large family on January 17, 1706, Franklin got his initial start in life as a printer in his brother’s print shop and newspaper in Boston. This foundation served as a basis for his industriousness and provided a livelihood that served him well many times throughout his younger days. But, he eventually outgrew such a beginning as he became a colonial Renaissance Man, as he became a an entrepreneur and a businessman, a meteorologist, a scientist and inventor, a musician, a librarian, a humorist, an economist, a philanthropist, a philosopher, and a diplomat and statesman.
To Walter Isaacson, whose exhaustive biography of Benjamin Franklin was published in 2003, Franklin stood out as “the most accomplished American of his age and the most influential in inventing the type of society America would become.” Amazingly, during the time of such an incredible career, never lost pride in his working class roots, nor his desire for freedom. He served his people and his country as a determined patriot for most of his adult life. Even at 81 years of age, one of his last official duties, and one of the most important, was to give the concluding remarks at the Constitutional Convention to urge the delegates to sign the document giving birth to the new nation.
One of the most important statements he has more relevance for America in 2017, than in his own day. However, in his time or in ours, he is never considered a prophet; but he left a prophetic warning that may contain significant meaning for the United States today.
Ben Franklin’s prophecy shows up through one of the most important statements he ever made. On Monday, September 17th, on the last day of the gathering of delegates in the historical assembly at the Constitutional Convention, Franklin offered a message. The delegates had deliberated on signing the document even to this day. Franklin was actually too weak to stand and offer his speech, so he asked James Wilson to deliver it. It is advisable to read the entire speech, but among other words, he shared these with his fellow patriots:
I confess that there are several parts of this constitution which I do not at present approve, but I am not sure 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…
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. I doubt too whether any other Convention we can obtain, may be able to make a better constitution.
Much of the strength & efficiency of any government in procuring and securing happiness to the people, depends on opinion; on the general opinion of the goodness of the 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 posterity, we shall act heartily and unanimously in recommending this constitution… and turn our future thoughts & endeavors to the means of having it well administered.
Franklin went on to fully recommend the constitution to his fellow delegates, and in the end urged each delegate to “doubt a little of his own infallibility, and to make manifest our unanimity, put his name to this instrument.” A bit later, all but three delegates came forward to sign the document.
Consider the words, “…can only end in despotism…when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic government, being incapable of any other.” Was this his prophecy of the inevitable outcome of the human efforts to obtain a “more perfect union” or ideal government?
If anyone is paying attention to the rapid and detrimental developments throughout the nation in the past decade, or if one looks clearly around the United States today, the layers of reality that are being peeled away reveals tell-tale signs of the kinds of fundamental corruption Franklin and the other Founding Fathers feared. Are the portents of a creeping tyranny that hard to recognize? Is the Party of Tyranny willing to concede the election to the GOP, or will they repeat history and attempt to impose a tyranny over the people as they had in the days before the Civil War?
Franklin rightfully explained that “much of the strength & efficiency of any government in procuring and securing happiness to the people, depends… on the general opinion of the goodness of the government, as well as of the wisdom and integrity of its governors.” It is wise to allow the machinery of a Democratic Republic carry on the hopes and dreams of our Founders.