March 27, 2012
It was a speech that ran all of 727 words.
If you ran it through a spell and grammar check, you'd probably rewrite half of it, omitting all the passive sentences.
Fortunately Microsoft Word hadn't been invented yet.
After the obligatory, "Mr. President," it started with two simple words:
"I confess." Mainly because the man who wrote it had a lot to confess to.
Benjamin Franklin was too weak to read the speech himself, but the words were his — every single one of them. It was left to fellow Pennsylvanian James Wilson to address the Constitutional Convention, September 17, 1787:
"I confess, that there are several parts of this Constitution which I do not at present approve, but I am not sure I shall never approve them: For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged by better information, or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise. It is therefore that the older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment, and to pay more respect to the judgment of others..."
Plain fact was he sought, early on, to cultivate his character by a plan of 13 virtues, which he had trouble living up to.
He wrestled with his conscience. Sometimes his conscience lost:
"...Most men indeed as well as most sects in Religion, think themselves in possession of all truth, and that wherever others differ from them it is so far error. ... but though many private persons think almost as highly of their own infallibility as of that of their sect..."
But he never lacked introspection:
"On the whole, Sir, I cannot help expressing a wish, 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 make manifest our unanimity, put his name to this Instrument..."
Thanks to his fine words, which you can read exactly as Wilson read it, the delegates agreed that the sum was greater than the parts.
It was by no means a perfect document, and neither was the man who wrote the "confession," but when his country needed him the most, Benjamin Franklin was perfect enough.