Friends, I am beginning what I hope will be a long series of posts, where I re-examine a famous moment in history to find what really happened.
On the final day of the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin looked at the seat of the President of the Convention, George Washington. Upon the back of the seat was engraved a sun on the horizon. Franklin remarked, "During the course of these proceedings I have often gazed upon that chair and wondered whether it was a rising or a setting sun. I am now confident, upon the conclusion of our labors that it is, indeed, a rising sun."
Traditional Interpretation: Franklin was concerned whether the young nation would long remain whole under the weak and decentralized Articles of Confederation, but was confident that the nation, represented by the sun, would rise in prominence and flourish reorganized and reinvigorated by the new Constitution.
What really happened: Ol' Ben Frank was usually so hammered that he didn't know whether it was day or night, much less what day it was. For posterity's sake Alexander Hamilton and Charles Cotesworth Pinkney forcibly sobered Franklin up for the signing of the final draft, and he felt the need to point out that he resented being up before noon on a Friday.