Sunday, October 20, 2013

Roadboy Takes a Walk in Philadelphia

An American Treasure

Roadboy just returned from Philadelphia for the 120th National Convention of the International Association of Chief's of Police.

The city played a perfect host filling the attendees up with ideas, culture, history and cheesesteaks.

The first morning, before going to the convention, I took a walk. I started out with a few major destinations in mind. At the very least I knew I wanted to see Independence Hall and get a glimpse of the Liberty Bell.

On the way I stopped for breakfast at America's oldest Farmer's Market The Reading Terminal Market. Inside, even on a Sunday I found the place awash in Eastern shore seafood, pumpkins sandwiched in with baker's and candy makers. I had a 3 egg breakfast cheesesteak and a steaming Latte from the Old Mill Coffee. I bought a big sour cherry, chocolate chip and sea salt cookie for later. Although my life was almost certainly shortened from my mornings gluttony, I will die happier. 

A Sign of Fall 
at the 
Reading Terminal Market 

My Breakfast Cheesesteak Was From Spataro's

From there my walk ventured through Philadelphia's colorful Chinatown with its little stores, dozens of acupuncturists and tattoo parlors.

Gateway to Chinatown

A Chinatown Tattoo Parlor Window Display 

Cast Aluminum(?) Dragons
Walking further I came to the Pennsylvania Constitution Center and the Independence Mall. A multi-block greenbelt that affords views of The Pennsylvania State House (the building we now refer to as Independence Hall). Across the street is the present day home of the cracked bell that once tolled from the statehouse prophetically inscribed "Proclaim Liberty throughout All the land unto All the Inhabitants Thereof".

The Pennsylvania State House
Independence Hall
The Epicenter of American Democracy

Entering Independence Hall just days after it's reopening from our recent governmental upchuck was especially telling.

"Proclaim Liberty"

This is the building where our Declaration of Independence created 13 sovereign states and formalized our state of war with England. From here Benjamin Franklin was dispatched to France as one of America's first ambassadors (to create an essential alliance with France against Britain). 

Arguably The Most Significant Single Room in American History 

By 1778 Britain and France were indeed waging war and a weakened Britain simply could not wage war with both France and its colonists in the new world. I now understand that France gave us more than the State of Liberty. In very real terms France gave us liberty itself.

Stairs Used by Jefferson, Franklin, Washington, Adams....

By 1783 the "United" States signed a peace treaty with Britain resulting in a confederation of 13 sovereign states. Our first experience in pure states rights rapidly proved to be a failure with Shay's rebellion in Massachusetts. The states quickly realized a truly "United States" required a real federal government.

In 1787 a Constitutional Convention is convened. Convention delegates ratify a constitution, sending it to the state's for ratification. 

By 1788 all of the 13 states have signed.

In 1789 the first Federal Congress convenes in New York. 

By 1791 10 amendments - the Bill of Rights are ratified. 

In 1800 our new federal government moved from its temporary home in Philadelphia to Washington DC.

Hence, the common perception that our nation emerged quickly (and painlessly?) after the declaration of independence is pure myth. In reality a quarter century of war, chaos and economic hardship passed between the Declaration of Independence and the time when the United States finally had a constitutionally framed, fully functioning federal government in Washington DC. 

As I made my way back to the convention I passed countless architectural gems. Some were well utilized, many await new uses. I immediately realized that I will need many visits to fully appreciate Philadelphia.

One of the gems I passed was the depression era Federal Courts / Post Office Building. Built from 1937-1942, this pink granite and limestone moderne edifice (now officially the Robert N.C. Nix Sr. Federal Building) offers the street a gift of four Edmond R. Amateis murals celebrating heroic postal workers getting the job done in the extreme North, South East and West.

Mail Delivered In the West....

And In The Far North

I had been given the a gift of a sunny fall day to walk and appreciate the crucible of American democracy.

My take away.

Philadelphia's Independence Mall landmarks illustrate vividly the aspirations of a democracy that rewards hard work, empowers the powerless and promotes the equitable distribution of national wealth.

We need to remember that.

The events that took place in these landmarks demonstrate our founders fully understood what happens when corrupt leaders seek to divert power and wealth into the hands of few.

Like today?

Roadboy's Travels © 2013

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