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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 haye experienced many instances of being obliged, by bever 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 10 doubt my own judgment, and to pay more respect to the judgment of others. Most men, in. deed, as well as most sects in religion, think them. selves in possession of all truih, 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, tho Romish church is infallible, and the church of England never in the wrong." But, though niany 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 it happens, sister, but I meet with nobody but myself that is always in the right." Il n'y a que moi qui a tonjours raison. In these sentiments, Sir, I agrco to this constitution, with all its faults, if they are such; because I think a general government neces sary for us, and there is no form of government but what may be a Liessing, if well administered ; and I 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, whesi che people shall become so corrupted as to ueed des potic government, being incapable of any other. I doubt too, whether any other convention we can obtain, may be able to make a better constitution : for when you assemble a number of men, to have the advantage of their joint wisdum, you inevitabiy as. semble with those men all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfislı views.Fromn 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 confi. dence, to hear that our councils are contounded, 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.
* * Our reasons for escribing this speech to Dr. Franklin, are ita internal evidence, and its baring appeared with his name during his Be-time uncontradicted, in an American periodical publication
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 whispered a syllable of thein 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 ali the salutary effects and great advantages resulting naturally in our favour ainong foreign nations, as well as among ourselves, from our real or apparent unanimity. Much of the strength and etficiency 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 wisiloin 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, we
shall act heartily and unanimously in recommending this constitution, wherever our influence may extend, and tum 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 stil 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 nent.
(The motion was then made for adding the las formuia, viz.
Done in Convention, by the uranimous consent, &c. which was agreed to, and added accordingly.
PEEFERENCE OF BOWS AND ARROWS
IN WAR TO FIRE-ARMS.
TO MAJOR-GENERAL LEE.
· Philadelphia, Feb. 11, 1776. DEAR SIR, The bearer, Mons. Arundel, is directed by the Con gress to repair to General Schuyler, in order to be onployed by him in the artillery service. He proposes o wait on you in his way, and has requested me to ntroduce him by a line to you. He has been a officer in the French service, as you will see by hu commnissions; 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 officer, Mr. Newland, who served in the two last wars. wod was known by General Gates, who spoke well as
him to me when I was at Cainbridge. He is desir ous now of entering into your service. I have adh vised him to wait upon you at New York.
They still talk big in England, and threaten hard. but their language is somewhat civiller, at least nol quite so disrespectful to us. By degrees they come to their senses, but too late, I fancy, for their in terest.
We have got a large quantity of saltpetre, on hundred and twenty ton, and thirty more expected Powder mills are now wanting ; I believe we mus set to work and make it by land. 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 nan may shoot as truly with a bow as with a common muskel.
2. He can discharge four arrows in the time of charging and discharging one bullet.
3. His ohject is not taken from his view by the smoke of his own side.
4. A flight of arrows seen coming upon them terrie 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.
Polydore Virgil, speaking of cne of our batiles against the French in Edward the Third's reign, mentions the great confusion the enemy was thrown into sugittaruin nube, froni the English; and coneludes, “Est res profecto dictu mirabilis ut tantus ac potens exercitus a solis ferè Anglicis sagittariis victus fuerit; adeo Anglus est sagittipotens, et id genus ar inoruin valet.” If so much execution was done by arrow's when men wore some defensive armour, irow much more inight be done now that it is out of use!
I am glad you are come to New Yark, but I also wish you could be in Canada. There is a kind of Rispense in men's minds here at present, waiting to see what ternis will be offered from England. I ex. pect ncne that we can accept; and when that is gegorally seen, we shall be more unanimous and more
Gecisive: 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, Leing so bad a correspondent. My eyes wil now hardly serve me to write by night, and these short rlays have been all taken up by such varioiy of business that I seldum can sit down ten ninutos without interruption, God give you success
I ain, with the greatest esteem,
SIK, I RETUNN the papers with some corrections. I dici not find coal mines, under the calcareous rock in Derbyshire.- only remarked, that at the lowest part of that rocky mountain, which was in sighs 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 bouieversement in the surface of that island, some part of it having been depressed under the sea, ard other parts, which had been under 'it, being raiseul above it. Such changes in the super. ficial parts of the globe seemed to me unlikely to hap pen, if the earth were solid at the centre. I therm