"It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force. If there be any truth in the remark, the crisis at which we are arrived may with propriety be regarded as the era in which that decision is to be made." (Alexander Hamilton, Federalist number one)
In 1787, delegates from the recently independent 13 colonies met in Philadelphia to try to forge a new, stronger constitution. That summer, the representatives ironed out a document that had pluses and minuses for all involved, a point noted by Ben Franklin in explaining why he assented to it at the end of the process: "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 another's 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."
©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors
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