History records that as delegates emerged from the sweltering confines of a closed door Constitutional Convention in 1787 someone asked Benjamin Franklin what kind of government they had formulated. “A republic,” Franklin said, “if you can keep it.”
This was an interesting response on a number of different levels. Since it is the only kind of government we have ever known, today we take it for granted. But in those days it was considered by many a dangerous experiment likely doomed to implode in on itself.
Franklin seemed to imply as much by uttering his conditional “if.” But what is equally interesting is to whom the “if” was directed. Franklin directed it to “you” – or, American citizens of that day and those of us who would follow. No government depended so much on its citizenry for its success.
Further, we would argue that a republican form of government was the only form that had a chance of being “kept.” Our Founders were repulsed at the idea of forming a monarchy even with its promise of efficiency in governance.
It would never have entered into their thinking to design a government based on what we now know as socialism or communism, and for a very fundamental reason. They understood people. They knew people are not perfect and never would be this side of heaven. Those two systems are attempts to create heaven on earth.
They also knew a pure democracy would never work because it wouldn’t be long until the majority would run roughshod over the minority.
This July Fourth weekend it would be well for us to remember the great sacrifices our Founders made in winning us our freedom as well as for their great wisdom in assembling our form of government, a 200 plus year experiment that continues to serve us well. May we continue to do our part to keep it.
— Loné Beasley