Happy Birthday, Ben

Today is Ben Franklin's 300th birthday. In keeping with the theme of tradeoffs and compromise that often adorns this blog, and since Franklin himself has also been a common subject, here is a quote from Franklin's closing address to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia:
I confess that I do not entirely approve this Constitution at present; but sir, I am not sure I shall ever approve it: 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 of others.

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, few express it so naturally as a certain French lady, who, in a little dispute with her sister, said: "But I meet with nobody but myself that is always in the right."

In these sentiments, sir, I agree to this Constitution, with all its faults, - if they are such, - because I think a general government necessary for us... I doubt, too, whether any other convention we can obtain may be able to make a better Constitution; for, when you assemble a number of men, to have the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those men all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views. From such an assembly can a perfect production be expected?

It therefore astonishes me, sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does; and I think it will astonish our enemies, who are waiting with confidence to hear that our counsels are confounded like those of the builders of Babel, and that our States are on the point of separation, only to meet hereafter for the purpose of cutting one another's throats. Thus I consent, sir, to this Constitution, because I expect no better, and because I am not sure that it is not the best.
There are some people today (and even in Franklin's time) who seem to think of compromise as some sort of fundamental evil, but it appears to me to be an essential part of democracy.

Update 1.18.06: Mister Snitch points to The Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary, an excellently designed site dedicated to Franklin's 300th birthday...