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Franklin Approves!

This Day In Founding Fathers History – 7 February 2013

On this day in 1795, the 11th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified with the ratification by North Carolina. “The judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.” This amendment modified certain clauses in Article III, section 2. The official announcement of ratification did not come until 8 January 1798 by President John Adams in a message to Congress. 1

In 1775 on this day, The Public Advertiser published a letter penned by Benjamin Franklin, “An Imaginary Speech.” The letter was a response to an unidentified British colonel’s assertion that Britain had nothing to fear from the colonial rebels because “Americans are unequal to the People of this Country in Devotion to Women, and in Courage, and worse than all, they are religious.” Franklin wrote, “Sir, let the rapid Increase and Population of America, compared with the Decrease of England and of Scotland, shew which of the two People are most effectually devoted to the Fair Sex…Sir, I am at a Loss to conceive upon what Facts the Gentleman grounds his Impeachment of American Courage.” Franklin elaborates with examples of American militia stepping in to clean up British blunders during the French and Indian War. “Indiscriminate Accusations against the Absent are cowardly Calumnies.” He concludes, “I had almost forgot the Honourable Gentleman’s Charge of their being too religious. Sir, they were such Religionists, that vindicated this Country from the Tyranny of the Stuarts. Perhaps the Honourable Gentleman may have some compassionate Feelings for that unhappy Family: Does that sharpen his Resentment against the Americans; who inherit from those Ancestors, not only the same Religion, but the same Love of Liberty and Spirit to defend it?” 2

1 “Amendment XI,” press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/tocs/amendXI.html; “States ratify 11th Amendment, limiting power of federal courts,” National Constitution Center, constitutioncenter.org/timeline/html/cw03_11967.html
2 “An Imaginary Speech,” The History Carper, historycarper.com/1775/02/07/an-imaginary-speech/; “Benjamin Franklin sends…,” Politico, politico.com/news/stories/0211/48941.html