Monday, 4 July 2011

Philadelphia Freedom - Happy Birthday America!

It's the 235th anniversary of the signing of America's Declaration of Independence in 1776.

A younger, leaner looking author
with Liberty Bell in 2005
 It's a day of great celebration for our cousins on the other side of the pond and I for one am happy to pass on my very best wishes to them on this day.

Philadelphia Freedom
When I holidayed along the east coast of America in 2005, I visited Boston which was of course the home of the Famous Tea Party which galvanised local feeling against the colonial repressors.

I've also been to Philadelphia and I must admit that I greatly underestimated the city before my arrival. On a whirlwind 2 week tour that took in Toronto in Canada before Boston and New York, Philadelphia was to be our final stop and it wasn't one that filled me with great excitement.

For a historian, this was a near sacrilegious underestimation of a city that lies at the very heart of what it is that America are celebrating today.

For Philadelphia was at the heart of the actions and ideas that fuelled the American Revolution and led to its Independence. It was there in Independence Hall that the declaration of Independence was signed after the Second Continental Congress voted for independence and for the first decade, the city served as the American capital between 1790-1800 before Washington took over the reins of power.

Having quickly grappled with the historic significance of this final city of my holiday, I lapped it all up. I visited Independence Hall, the venue of that famous declaration and also the adjacent Congress Hall which housed the initial meetings of Congress during this period - both the Senate and House of Representatives.

A Philadelphia Montage with
Independence Hall in the bottom right.
I also visited the nearby Liberty Bell Center to see the famous cracked bell that was one of many that reputedly rang in the news when the Declaration was publicly read on July 8, 1776. I also visited the wonderful National Constitution Center which tells you anything and everything that you could ever want to know about America's constitution which though far from perfect (particularly when dealing with the Native Americans), remains in my book, one of the purest expressions of democracy that has ever been written - and in the 18th century!

I have my copy of the Declaration of Independence which I bought then with me now. As it famously stated:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that amongst these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness".

In tribute to my American friends and this day of pride in their nation and on a belief that at its core was as near perfect as could be expected now, let alone then, this apt Elton John composition with a visual montage of Philadelphia by a native of the city.

Happy Birthday America!

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