Our Documentary Heritage showcases holdings drawn from the vast collections of the Pennsylvania State Archives.

On December 30, 1786, the General Assembly of Pennsylvania appointed Thomas Mifflin, Robert Morris, James Wil­son, George Clymer, Thomas Fitzsimmons, Gou­verneur Morris, and Jared Ingersoll to serve as dele-gates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. Benjamin Franklin, then serving as president of Pennsylvania, was added to the list of delegates by a special act on March 28, 1787 (Engrossed Laws, 1700-1853, Series 26.57 of Record Group 26, Records of the Department of State.) Franklin was so ill that he had to be carried to the Convention in a sedan chair and Wilson volunteered to read Franklin’s speeches for him. As one of the authors, with George Bryan and James Cannon, of Pennsylva­nia’s radical Constitution of 1776, Franklin preferred an executive council presided over by a president and a unicameral legislature for the federal gov­ernment as well. The weaknesses inherent in Pennsylvania’s constitution, however, were as serious in their own way as those inherent in the Articles of Confederation.

Gouverneur Morris, who chaired the Committee on Style and Arrangement, wrote most of the final draft for the new federal constitution signed by the delegates on September 17, 1787. Wilson read Franklin’s final remarks regarding the document. “I confess that there are several parts of this constitution which I do not at present approve,” wrote Franklin, “but I am not sure I shall never approve them, 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 1 grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment, and to pay more attention to the judgment of oth­ers … Thus I consent, sir, to this constitution, because I expect no better, and beca use I am not sure that it is not the best.” Inspired by the new federal model, a state constitutional convention was called in Novem­ber 1789 to replace Pennsylvania’s radical constitution. The resulting state Constitution of 1790 provided for a more powerful executive in the form of a gover­nor possessing broad powers to appoint judges, control the state militia, grant par­dons, and veto legislation. The Council of Censors was abolished and the unicameral legis­lature was replaced by a senate and a house of representatives.