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Friday, May 19, 2017
"A Republic... Or A Monarchy?"
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.” More