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for the Fourth of July ]
speaking to the Constitutional Convention, on June 28, 1787:
"All of us who were engaged in the struggle (war
of independence) must have observed frequent instances of a superintending Providence** in
To that kind Providence we owe this happy opportunity of
consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we
now forgotten that powerful Friend? Or do we imagine we no longer need His assistance?
I have lived, sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the
more convincing proofs I see of this truth--that God Governs in the affairs of men. And if
a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can
rise without His aid?
We have been assured, sir, in the Sacred Writings, that
"except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it." I firmly
believe this; and I also believe that without His concurring aid we shall succeed in this
political building no better than the builders of Babel.
I therefore beg leave to move--that henceforth prayers
imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessing on our deliberations, be held in this
Assembly every morning before we proceed to business
Another delegate to the convention wrote these
observations about Franklin's speech and its effect on the convention:
"The Doctor sat down; and never did I behold
a countenance at once so dignified and delighted as was that of Washington at the close of
the address; nor were the members of the convention generally less affected. The words of
the venerable Franklin fell upon our ears with a weight and authority even greater than we
may suppose an oracle to have had in a Roman Senate."
(Jonathan Dayton, delegate from New Jersey)
Franklin's resolution was passed and implemented
enthusiastically From that moment on, the deadlock was broken and rapid progress was
made on the constitution.
Prayers have opened both houses of Congress ever since.
** In the usage of the time, "Providence" referred specifically to God's
fortuitous intervention in events. It was considered so much a characteristic of God's
dealings with men that the word was always capitalized in print to emphasize that it was
referring to specific acts of God.