Philadelphians met Franklin at the wharf on 14 September 1785
and paraded him home to Market Street “with acclamations of
joy,” the booming of cannon, and the pealing of bells. They elected
him president of the Supreme Executive Council as Pennsylvania’s
hope for “reconciling all parties.”1 Gossips claimed that councilors
humored him in the morning and waited for him to leave before
they took care of business.2 Records show that he presided at only
one session in six.3 The pain of his many ills could be eased only
by laudanum, the household remedy made from opium. The
comic muse was no substitute for opium, yet he continued to
write humorous material for friends and for the local press.
Eighty-year-old Franklin found no relief from national service.
As a delegate to the Federal Constitutional Convention of 1787, he
was often too weak to speak, and others read his speeches for him.
The records show few flashes of his apologues. During debates on
the judiciary, he told “in a brief and entertaining manner” how
Scotch judges were appointed by lawyers “who always selected
the ablest of the profession in order to get rid of him, and share his
practice among themselves.”4 Because proceedings were secret,
newspapers provided epitomes of his familiar apologues. In
reporting Franklin’s famous appeal for compromise at the Con-
vention (17 September), they published paraphrases where we