Monday, October 31, 2011


Welcome to Philadelphia! The City of Brotherly Love! I had just a few hours free to explore, so I only got a sampling of the birthplace of American democracy. The short visit was still lots of fun!

Philadelphia is the fifth most populous city in the U.S., but back in the days when there were thirteen British colonies on the soil of North America, Philadelphia was the busiest port in all of the colonies. With the prominence of Philadelphia among all of the colonies, it is no surprise that the city played a key role in establishing the collective unity of the original thirteen colonies, promoting the cause for independence from British rule, and developing the fledgeling nation which would become the United States of America as we know it today. For about a decade, Philadelphia served as the temporary capitol of the new nation, as the permanent capitol of Washington D.C. was being constructed.

Before I went exploring, I just had to try the authentic sandwich of Philadelphia, the Philly Cheesesteak. The problem is that there is great debate over which restaurant created the original, and best, cheesesteak. It comes down to a duel between Pat's King of Steaks and Geno's Steaks, and they happen to be close enough to one another that you could probably throw a sandwich from Pat's and hit the front door of Gino's. :-) I wanted to try them both, but I could fit more than one sandwich in my tummy, so I went with Pat's. And in my tummy Pat's was yummy, with thin sliced sirloin, sautéed onions, and cheese, glorious cheese, on a toasty roll!

With a happy tummy, I headed to Independence National Historic Park. What was the main feature of that park? Independence Hall. In May of 1775, the Second Continental Congress convened in this building. Representatives from the thirteen British colonies met to discuss, among other matters, the policy direction the British Parliament had taken regarding the colonies. Chief among the concerns was taxation without representation. They had hoped to petition the king of England to hear their case and bend the will of Parliament to a more favorable disposition, hoping to ease the growing tensions between the colonies and their motherland. However, by the beginning of 1776, it was clear that the king was not inclined toward reconciliation, and in February of 1776, the Parliament established the Prohibitory Act, which blockaded American ports and labeled American ships as enemy vessels. The Congress members, largely spearheaded by John Adams, scrambled to get the individual colonial governments to come to a consensus for the cause of independence. After much debate and political posturing, the decision was made to vie for a united state government, independent of British rule. John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Livingston, and Roger Sherman were given the task to draft a declaration of independence. The draft was finished on June 28, but still there was much debate to be had, over matters including still whether or not to make the declaration at all, the timing of the declaration, and its content. But by July 4, 1776, these issues had been resolved to the point where the official Declaration of Independence was proclaimed to the people.

After the Declaration of Independence, Independence Hall still had a role to play in the birth of our nation. Within a year after our declared independence, the Articles of Confederation were drafted and became the basis for the government of the now-called United States of America. Although the Articles of Confederation were completed in 1777, it would take until 1781 for them to became fully ratified by all of the states. But as time progressed, the Articles of Confederation proved to be too weak to provide a fully functioning central government. In early 1787, the Congress set forth a plan to revise the Articles of Confederation. Each state except Rhode Island sent a delegate to work on the revision that summer, and they met here at Independence Hall. As they convened, they soon realized that mere revision would not be enough. A new design for the federal government emerged in the document they drafted, which today we know of as the Constitution. Almost two years later, on March 4, 1789, the new government officially took effect.

Here's the building that once housed the Second Bank of the United States.

No visit to Philadelphia would be complete without a nod to Benjamin Franklin. Seen here in statue form, Franklin was a man of character and ingenuity. As mentioned above, he helped in the creation of the Declaration of Independence, but legacy extends far beyond that. He was a polymath, a colonial equivalent of a Renaissance Man, with diverse interests and skills. Author, printer, politician, postmaster, scientist, inventor, satirist, musician, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat are all appropriate, if incomplete, labels for his accomplished life. He invented the lightning rod and bifocals, and many other things, but refused to patent them. Instead, he wanted to share them fro the benefit of mankind. He was instrumental in creating what would become the first public lending library. He promoted religious tolerance, finding strength in religious pluralism. He tirelessly promoted colonial unity, and served as our ambassador to France, one of our most important allies in our nation's early history. And much, much, much more. I highly recommend reading about his fascinating life! Well, it's on to the next stop for me. See you next time.