New Architecture and City Planning: A Symposium

By Paul Zucker | Go to book overview

CITIZEN INTEREST AND PARTICIPATION IN CITY AND REGIONAL PLANNING AND HOUSING

By HAROLD S. BUTTENHEIM

For several months during the year 1787, epoch-making debates were being held in the Constitutional Convention, then in session in Philadelphia. Some of the subjects discussed were, if possible, even more highly controversial than problems of city and regional planning and housing have since proved to be. Benjamin Franklin was one of the delegates who did not always get his own way. When the debates ended and the convention was ready to vote on a constitation embodying many compromises, Franklin urged approval of the document, saying in effect that he had become convinced that it was wiser to depend on the combined judgment of many than on the infallible wisdom of one.1

Subsequent history has, demonstrated the wisdom of Franklin's successful plea. For more than a century and a half, the United States of America has enjoyed the advantage of a form of government whose strength and sanity have been greatly aided by citizen

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1
As reported in Max Farrand "Records of the Federal Conventions," Franklin recognized the fact that "when you assemble a number of men to have advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those men, all their prejudices, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views." Nevertheless, Franklin proclaimed his adherence to the Constitution as proposed, "because I expect no better, and because I am not sure that it is not the best," and he concluded by urging that "every member of the Convention who may still have objections to it would, with me, on this occasion, doubt a little of his own infallibility--and to manifest our unanimity, put his name to the instrument."

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