On September 17, 1787, just after the Constitutional Convention’s ratification, a Mrs. Powell of Philadelphia reportedly asked Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), “Well, Doctor what have we got?” Franklin replied, “"A republic, Madam, if you can keep it.”
The anecdote comes from the undated notes of James McHenry (1753-1816), a signer of the Constitution. Franklin’s remark—“A republic, if you can keep it”—was printed in the newspapers of 1803 and 1811.
Wikiquote: Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin (17 January 1706 – 17 April 1790) was an American inventor, journalist, printer, diplomat, and statesman.
A lady asked Dr. Franklin Well Doctor what have we got a republic or a monarchy. A republic replied the Doctor if you can keep it.
. From a note of uncertain date by Dr. James McHenry. In a footnote he added that “The lady here aluded to was Mrs. Powel of Philada.” Published in The American Historical Review, v. 11, p. 618. At the close of the Constitutional Convention of 1787.
Wikipedia: United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.
The first three Articles of the Constitution establish the three branches of the national government: a legislature, the bicameral Congress; an executive branch led by the President; and a judicial branch headed by the Supreme Court. They also specify the powers and duties of each branch. All unenumerated powers are reserved to the respective states and the people, thereby establishing the federal system of government.
The Constitution was adopted on September 17, 1787, by the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and ratified by conventions in each U.S. state in the name of “The People”. It has been amended twenty-seven times; the first ten amendments are known as the Bill of Rights.
AUTHOR: Benjamin Franklin (1706–90)
QUOTATION: “Well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?”
“A Republic, if you can keep it.”
ATTRIBUTION: The response is attributed to BENJAMIN FRANKLIN—at the close of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, when queried as he left Independence Hall on the final day of deliberation—in the notes of Dr. James McHenry, one of Maryland’s delegates to the Convention.
McHenry’s notes were first published in The American Historical Review, vol. 11, 1906, and the anecdote on p. 618 reads: “A lady asked Dr. Franklin Well Doctor what have we got a republic or a monarchy. A republic replied the Doctor if you can keep it.” When McHenry’s notes were included in The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, ed. Max Farrand, vol. 3, appendix A, p. 85 (1911, reprinted 1934), a footnote stated that the date this anecdote was written is uncertain.
15 July 1803, Republican, or Anti-Democrat (Baltimore, MD), pg. 2, col. 4:
For the REPUBLICAN, or ANTI-DEMOCRAT.
THE deepest thinker of all antiquity, after examining and comparing the theory and practice of upwards of two hundred commonwealths, the justly celebrated Aristotle, whom the greatLocke acknowledged “a master in politics,’ speaking of the different kinds of government, observes, of the republic, that it is “prone to degenerate into democracy.” (a) Doctor Franklin, our countryman, who was certainly well read in human nature, held on this point the same opinion as the Stagirite. Being asked by a lady of Philadelphia remarkable (Pg. 3, col. 1—ed.) for wit and good sense, on the dissolution of the convention which framed the constitution—“well Doctor what have we got?” “A republic, Madam, if you can keep it.” “And why not keep it?” rejoined the Lady. “Because,” replied the Doctor, “the people on tasting this dish, are always disposed to eat more of it than does them good.”
1 October 1811, Salem (MA) Gazette, pg. 2, col. 4:
The following extracts are made from a pamphlet lately published in Maryland, entitled “The THREE PATRIOTS, or the Cause and Cure of present evils.”
“THE day the Federal Convention finishedtheir labors, and before the constitution was promulgated, DR. FRANKLIN, who was a member of that body, met with Mrs. POWELL, of Philadelphia, a lady remarkable for her understanding and wit.
“Well, Doctor,” said the lady on his entering the room, “we are happy to see you abroad again; pray what have we got?” “A republic, madam, if you can keep it.” “And why not keep a good thing,” said the lady, “when we have got it?” “Because, madam,” replied the Doctor, “there is in all republics a certain ingredient, of which the people when they have once tasted, think they can never get enough.”
New York City • Government/Law/Politics/Military • (0) Comments • Sunday, September 11, 2011 • Permalink