Predictions that the travails of 2020 might signal the end of our Republic have given me deeper sympathy with Franklin’s anxieties of 1787. James Madison recorded Franklin confessing his “hopes and fears” as the Constitution was being signed that fall. Madison wrote:
Whilst the last members were signing Doctr. FRANKLIN looking towards the Presidents Chair, at the back of which a rising sun happened to be painted, observed to a few members near him, that Painters had found it difficult to distinguish in their art a rising from a setting sun. I have said he, often and often in the course of the Session, and the vicisitudes of my hopes and fears as to its issue, looked at that behind the President without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting: But now at length I have the happiness to know that it is a rising and not a setting Sun.James Madison’s Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787, entry for Monday, September 17, quoted from Montpelier.org item 4084.
I posed in a replica of that President’s chair for this selfie:
The carved image on this chair captured Franklin’s fears that the convention would mark the end of the United States of America after 11 years (a setting sun), rather than its deeper beginning (the rising sun).
We all know, of course, that the sun doesn’t change for sunrise, sunset, or even the dark of night. The sun is always full: the variations are caused by our current situation here on Earth. Similarly, the idea of the United States of America exists, no matter what our condition.
I carried this idea into a pair of stained glass windows for my home office.
The sun endorsed things tonight, piercing through the reddish solar glass to land on my Franklin Papers shelf:
Here’s hoping the idea of our country pierces through as vigorously.
The American Glass Guild featured this window in its January 2021 newsletter, here.