Feeling Freedom in Philadelphia
|Imagine this room full of budding patriots, risking
high treason to declare independence. To quote
Benjamin Franklin, “We must, indeed, all hang together,
or most assuredly, we will all hang separately.”
The chair on a raised platform to the right of the
fireplace is for President George Washington.
The furniture inside Independence Hall is not authentic.
The British occupied the building in 1778 and used
the historic furniture during a cold Penslyvania
winter as firewood.
|The founding fathers sifted among the greatest
philosophers to craft these words. Although Thomas
Jefferson was tapped to write the draft, John Adams
and the committee made over 86 changes.
For Jefferson, seeing his own work “mangled” was
agonizing, and he and Adams were at odds for years,
finally reconciling a few years before they
died within hours of each other on July 4, 1826.
|The Continental Congress met, declared war,
chose a leader, made a treaty with France, funded
the war effort with loans and bonds and wrote
a Constitution. Fascinating that this involved
round tables (collaborative) rather than small
tables for each colony in defiance of a King
(as in the Declaration of Independence room).
|Nothing makes history come alive
like putting yourself in the place
where the struggles and tough decisions
|Following the Revolutionary War,
Washington quelled a potentially
disastrous bid by some of his officers
to declare him King. His refusal to
accept the proffered crown and his
willingness to relinquish office after
two terms established the precedent
for limits on the office of the presidency.
|Washington appointed Alexander
Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson
to his cabinet, and they almost
immediately began to quarrel over
states rights versus federalism –
the beginning of a two party system.
We heard them debate!
|The open green space in front of Philadelphia
Hall has been a magnet for free speech demonstrations
for women’s rights to gay rights to civil rights
to Tea Party activists.
|We had the unique opportunity to ask questions
of Alexander Hamilton. I asked him if he could
describe the process of a duel (since he met his
death in a duel with Aron Burr). Remember this
was a fatal duel between the Secretary of the
Treasury and a Vice President! He calmly
explained that the sensible thing was to try to
solve the issue diplomatically. If that was not
successful, the thing to do was to go to New
Jersey, choose the weapons, have a surgeon
on hand for injuries, and drop a handkerchief.
Burr survived the duel and was charged with murder.
Dueling was legal at the time in New Jersey.
The charges were dropped, but it ended Burr’s
career as VP. The loss of Hamilton weakened
the Federalist party for years to come.
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