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American statesman.

Mr. President:

I confess that there are several parts of this constitution which I do not at present approve, but ... having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged, by better information or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects....

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.... Thus I consent, Sir, to this Constitution because I expect no better.... 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 the [people's] general opinion of the goodness of the government, as well as of the wisdom and integrity of its governors. I hope, therefore, that ... we shall act heartily and unanimously in recommending this Constitution....

On the whole, Sir, I cannot help expressing a wish that every member of the Convention who may still have objections to it would, with me on this occasion, doubt a little of his own infallibility, and ... put his name to this instrument.

Benjamin Franklin was a born diplomat. All his life, he was able to settle disputes and forge agreements. He had a gift for knowing when to flatter, when to joke, and when to remain silent.

From 1776 to 1785, Franklin served as an American ambassador to France. He helped convince the French to send desperately needed aid to the struggling Colonies. Without the money, supplies, and soldiers from France, America might well have lost the Revolution. Franklin also helped negotiate the 1783 Treaty of Paris, which officially ended the war.

In 1787, Franklin took part in the Constitutional Convention. After nearly four months of fierce debate and hard-won compromises, the members had a document to vote on. But would it pass?

Too ill to talk, Franklin wrote a speech that a friend delivered for him. It was addressed to George Washington, who presided over the Convention. Once again, Franklin's persuasion was key: The U.S. Constitution was approved unanimously.

Words to Know:

inevitably: as is expected.

infallibility: inability to fail or make a mistake.

procuring: getting or achieving.

unanimously: having everyone's agreement.

QUESTIONS Write your answers on a separate sheet of paper.

1. How did Franklin's skills of persuasion help America win the war?

2. How long did Franklin serve as an ambassador to France?

3. The American Revolution began in 1775. How long did the war last?

4. At the time of his Constitution speech, Franklin was 81. What did he say his many years had taught him?

5. Why did Franklin say, "I expect no better [Constitution]"?

6. What phrases in the speech tell you that Franklin believed that the Constitution could be improved?

7. Why did Franklin sacrifice (give up) trying to change what he considered flaws in the Constitution?

8. For a government to work well, said Franklin, what is required?

9. What did Franklin ask his fellow members to do?

10. Some degree of compromise is required for any group of people to live or work together. What examples of compromise can you name from your daily life at home or in school? How are those compromises reached?

Answer Key

1. He convinced France to send America money, supplies, and soldiers.

2. nine years (1776 to 1785)

3. eight years (1775 to 1783, the official end)

4. that learning new facts or having more time to think sometimes caused him to change his mind

5. As all humans are imperfect, so are the things they create.

6. "several parts of this constitution which I do not ... approve"; "near to perfection"; "the opinions I have had of its errors"

7. for the public good (better to have an imperfect Constitution than none)

8. approval ("opinion of the goodness") of those who govern, along with their wisdom and integrity

9. to acknowledge that everything they think and want is not necessarily right, and to approve the Constitution rather than seek further changes

10. Answers will vary.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:SKILLS MASTER 6
Publication:Junior Scholastic
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 31, 2005
Words:720
Previous Article:Wit and wisdom.
Next Article:White House woes.


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