We drove from Hershey to the town of the Middletown, where we were would board Amtrak to Philadelphia. We had been told at the resort, this was the fastest and easiest way to enter into Philadelphia early in the morning due to construction, toll roads and parking problems in the national Park. And they were very correct, because in less time than it would’ve taken us to have driven; we were at the downtown train station where we got a taxi that took us to be visitor’s center.
After leaving the Independence Visitors Center in the Philadelphia history district, my first view was that of Independence Hall. It was here that the final version of the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, and it was also here that the creation of the U.S. Constitution was started on September 17, 1786. History reveals that there was vigorous debate before the Declaration of Independence was signed here. Eleven years later, in 1787, the U.S. Constitution was debated with equal vigor, and written. One can actually say that Philadelphia and Independence Hall was America’s birthplace
In the beginning Independence Hall was known as the Pennsylvania State House and much of the early history of our country is found in this area of Philadelphia. The place brims with attractions on every corner, and if history is your cup of tea you have come to the right city.
The colony of Pennsylvania consisted of only three counties founded by William Penn in 1682, nearly a century before the thirteen American colonies declared their independence from Great Britain.
For Americans, indeed for all people, there are no greater symbols of individual freedom than Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell which is housed just across the street. Since 1951 these buildings have been maintained by the American people as part of Independence National Historical Park. The park includes three square blocks in the City of Philadelphia where the dream of a free country of independent citizens became fact. Here, from 1790 to 1800, when Philadelphia was the nation’s capital, the principle of governance based on the rights of individual citizens was first tested. Through a series of events, which in retrospect seem almost miraculous, many of the buildings in which these events took place were preserved. With years of devotion and effort on the part of the City of Philadelphia, the National Park Service, and countless private citizens, these places have been restored for the enjoyment and enlightenment of the millions who come to Independence.
This historical park is truly a national shrine. The events that took place here two centuries ago, and the buildings and objects associated with them, are what attract visitors from every state in the Union and almost every country around the globe. This place where our nation began arouses deep feelings. I remember well the solemn attention and silence we had as we walked into the Assembly Room which was a testament to our emotion. In this place, we sat in a sense of reverence as the Park lecturer brought to our attention what happened in this place. One could nearly see Washington, Franklin, Monroe, and Madison along with the many other notables sitting in awe as we were reminded of the ideals that formed the basis for the founding of the United States.
The purpose of Independence is serious, but the mood in the park is not necessarily solemn. Independence can be the setting for ceremonial, or for protest, or for celebration. It is a site that often appears on the itineraries of visiting heads of state or other dignitaries. With luck, the day of such a visit will be fine and the flags on Independence Mall will be snapping in the breeze.
I was amazed to learn that it takes over 200 park service personnel to run the park the year round. This number is supplemented by temporary employees or, in park service parlance, “seasonal” during the peak summer season. Likewise there are some 150 to 250 volunteers who put in regularly scheduled tours of duty. The volunteers are among the park’s people that most visitors see.
As one walks through this national Park, most people would be unaware that on January 17, 2011, Benjamin Franklin was 305. Many different events were scheduled to commemorate the event, on and around that week in January 2011. As it turns out, Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday also falls in January, and the staff at Independence National Historical Park, combined the two for one event.
This short story only reveals but a miniscule of what it was really like in this area, and as these documents were written and the people who lived in this small community at the time.
Let us remember the cost of freedom.
“…With a great sum obtained I this freedom….”– Acts 22:28.
Dr. Alton Loveless is the former CEO/President of Randall House Publications, Nashville, Tenn. He is a freelance writer who lived in Farmington the past several years and has written for assorted publications printed both nationally and internationally. If you want to see photos to accompany this article go to his web site at: http://altonloveless.blogspot.com.