“If you can keep it…”
“If you can keep it…” by Simon Black – Sovereign Man
On September 17, 1787 on the final day of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Benjamin Franklin was approached by a woman as he walked out of Independence Hall.
“Well Doctor, what have we got– a republic, or a monarchy?” she asked.
It was a burning question on everyone’s mind: what form of government would the Constitutional delegates establish for the new country?
Franklin didn’t hesitate. “A republic– if you can keep it.”
(The exchange was noted by Maryland delegate James McHenry and included in the Records of the Federal Convention of 1787.)
Franklin’s answer spoke volumes.
The Constitutional Convention had just ended, and it had been a bitter four months as the delegates fought and argued over every single word in the draft.
Factions had developed. Some delegates wanted a federal government with absolute power. Others wanted fewer guaranteed liberties for individuals.
Franklin knew that the representative government he had worked so hard to establish was incredibly fragile, and that it could easily slip away.
It was the same fight two years later when the 1st United States Congress fought over whether or not to establish a Bill of Rights.
As one delegate wrote, “Bill of Rights– useful, but not essential.”
Once again, after months of bitter arguments, Congress finally reached a compromise in September 1789, approving ten Constitutional amendments that guaranteed certain freedoms for the people.
More than two centuries later it’s clear that most of what they worked to achieve has completely changed.
The First Amendment, which ensures that Congress can make no law restricting freedom of speech, press, religion, and peaceable assembly, has become almost a punch line.
Ironically the greatest assault on Free Speech today doesn’t even come from government, but from university students who protest against any ideas they find offensive.
Violence on university campuses is now common as students come out of their Safe Spaces to physically obstruct and violently impede controversial speakers.