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Friday, August 03, 2007

I got this email today about the posting below about grassroots quoting Ben Franklin:

I believe that your quote about "A Republic, Madam, if we can keep it," is very slightly in error, unless my own sources are incorrect. I have been quoting the exchange as, "...if you can keep it." If this latter quote is accurate (allegedly in response to the wife of the Philadelphia mayor, who, like many, had been virtually camped out waiting the results of the deliberations within the PA Assembly Hall, now known as Independence Hall), then the difference in pronouns causes a bit of reflection. It may have been a simple reaction to the question. But it also may have been a subtle acknowledgment that he knew that his health and age made it improbable that he would live much longer and would not be around to see whether the Republic, this bold gamble that the 55 delegates had carved out, would survive. Although this latter is intriguing, I guess I'd have to lean towards the simpler, less interesting choice as the more probable. What do you think?



Christopher Lowell

Chris is absolutely correct and I agree the correct
wording is much more powerful:

Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations. 1989.

NUMBER: 1593
AUTHOR: Benjamin Franklin (1706–90)
QUOTATION: “Well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?”

“A Republic, if you can keep it.”
ATTRIBUTION: The response is attributed to BENJAMIN FRANKLIN—at the close of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, when queried as he left Independence Hall on the final day of deliberation—in the notes of Dr. James McHenry, one of Maryland’s delegates to the Convention.

McHenry’s notes were first published in The American Historical Review, vol. 11, 1906, and the anecdote on p. 618 reads: “A lady asked Dr. Franklin Well Doctor what have we got a republic or a monarchy. A republic replied the Doctor if you can keep it.” When McHenry’s notes were included in The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, ed. Max Farrand, vol. 3, appendix A, p. 85 (1911, reprinted 1934), a footnote stated that the date this anecdote was written is uncertain.
By the way, Chris is going to be in Denver to help us launch the new Ben Franklin's Small Business Chamber of Commerce. Let me know if you'd like an invitation to the event! After meeting with us here in Denver he is headed up to Greeley to spend the week.

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