Chapter XI
The Public Philosophy of a Saqe

WHEN FRANKLIN CAME home in 1785, there was a clear call for his talent and wisdom in seeking "the unearned increment created by human accord": the newly independent United States needed desperately "to form a more perfect union." Franklin did not bring profound political theory or even any particular talent for devising institutions of government to this exacting task. He brought what was most needed in the aftermath of revolution where the premium had been on ringing words, reckless courage, and persistence in principle: the wisdom of experience, the good sense of a sage, and an unfailing instinct for proposing the next short step men might take in agreement, or at least in agreement to disagree.

During the Constitutional Convention, which met in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787, a respite from gout and bladder-stone attacks permitted Franklin to serve as a member of the Pennsylvania delegation. He told his sister that he "attended the Business of [the Convention] 5 Hours in every Day from the beginning, which is something more than four Months . . . my Health continues; some tell me I look better, and they suppose the daily Exercise of going and returning from the Statehouse has

-185-

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Benjamin Franklin
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The GREAT AMERICAN THINKERS Series ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Chronology xi
  • Chapter I- Boyhood Training 1
  • Chapter II- Early Readinq 9
  • Chapter III- Skepticism and Orthodoxy 32
  • Chapter IV- Business, Personal, and Civic Virtue 55
  • Chapter V- Science 78
  • Chapter VI- Politics 88
  • Chapter VII- Vision of Empire- From Loyalty to Revolution 111
  • Chapter VIII- The Art of Congeniality 135
  • Chapter IX- International Relations 149
  • Chapter X- Religion 163
  • Chapter XI- The Public Philosophy of a Saqe 185
  • Selected Bibliography 213
  • Index 221
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