Letters to the Editor
A great quote, but unfortunately attributed to wrong founding father
I thought I should send along a comment on your article about the GOP function “2010 Candidate Search” in Colorado Springs in case you might need a heads-up about a hilarious historical mistake.
I naturally assume that your report is impeccable and that the paragraph did not suffer whilst getting into print.
Your reporter wrote that all of the candidates vowed to uphold the U.S. Constitution, but Tom Wiens drew shouts of approval when he repeated a quote by President Thomas Jefferson. After the Constitutional Convention in 1787, a woman reportedly asked if it had established a republic or a monarchy. Jefferson replied, “A republic if you can keep it.”
For a bulldog supporter, chuck full of knowledge of the founder’s intent and how it got to be what it is so he can keep it that way, Wiens’ history is shot to hell.
First of all, the whole story may be of the class of Washington and the cherry tree; I have never bothered to search out whether it is a verified historical fact. However, it sure as hell was not Jefferson who made that enshrined statement because he was in France as the U.S. Minister. Whatever he may have had to do with the convention, he assuredly was not around Philadelphia to give an early report about its results.
All the common reports I have ever seen revolve around the secrecy in which the convention operated. The public knew that the proceedings were coming to an end so a small crowd would meet the delegates as they left the hall at the end of the day. On one of the last days a woman in the crowd called out, “Dr. Franklin, what have you given us?” Franklin, ever the lady’s man called back, “Madam, a republic, if you can keep it.” In doing so, he somewhat violated the secrecy rules — but it was near the end when the results had to be released officially anyway. And he maintained his reputation as a man indulgent with the fair sex.
Now that’s my version. So to paraphrase the ‘Old-Timer’ on the ‘Fibber McGee and Molly’ radio show, “That’s a good ‘un Wiens*, but that ain’t the way I heer’’ it ; the way I heer’d it, one feller says t’ the other feller, he says **** then fill in another version of the same joke. I wonder how that might work in a ‘so-called’ political debate?
*The ‘Old-Timer' always called Fibber - Johnnie ; in fact, I think he called all men Johnnie.
We need more politicians who started nearly as soon as the founders. They don’t screw-up the jokes so badly.
With my best and kindest regards for you in your struggle with a tuff job, I remain
James D. Parmenter