By Douglas V. Gibbs
Elizabeth Powel was the woman in the story about Benjamin Franklin, after the end of the Constitutional Convention, who walked up to him and asked, "Sir, what have you given us? A monarchy, or a republic?" Franklin responded, "A republic, ma'am, if you can keep it."
She was the wife of Samuel Powel, mayor of Philadelphia. Together they owned what we would call today a 'bed and breakfast.' To attract the most important travelers, at their inn they offered opulent dinners. It is said that during the convention, George Washington spent most of his suppers at the Powel House.
When the meal concluded, the men would retreat to the parlor to light up their pipes and discuss politics. Unlike most of the women of her day, Elizabeth followed the men into the parlor, and argued with them about the issues of the day. Those who wrote about her called her "witty," "intelligent," and "unwavering."
She developed friendships with the founders, and in particular, George Washington. It was common to see Elizabeth and George strolling the streets of Philadelphia discussing the issues of the day. It was Elizabeth who convinced Washington that "Mr. President" was a good enough title, rather than some of the other titles of preference being offered. . . like "Your majesty," "your excellence," or "your highly mightiness."
When Washington's first term as President of the United States was reaching its end, Washington told three people he was considering not serving another term. Those people were Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Elizabeth Powel. It was Elizabeth who convinced George to serve a second term, arguing that he was the foundation of the new system, and if he abandoned it the people would lose faith in the new Constitution.
Which brings us back to that conversation between Elizabeth Powel and Benjamin Franklin. "If you can keep it." How could she keep the republic? She couldn't even vote!
Voting is the sole tool of democracy, but we are a republic, and it was Elizabeth Powel who gave us an example to follow when it comes to what it takes to keep the republic.
-- Political Pistachio Conservative News and Commentary