The Great American History Tour: Philadelphia

by Derrick G. Jeter

Sunday, 29 June 2008

 

John Wayne’s 1960 epic The Alamo is a dreadful piece of history. But as a patriotic primer it has few rivals. In an overtly patriotic speech, Wayne’s character, Davy Crockett is speaking with William B. Travis in a Cantina. Travis had come to implore Crockett to join the Texas rebels in their war to gain independence from Mexico. Crockett anticipates that Travis wants to talk about building a Texas republic. He says,

 

Republic. I like the sound of the word. It means people can live free, talk free, go or come, buy or sell, be drunk or sober, however they choose. Some words give you a feeling. Republic is one of those words that makes me tight in the throat—the same tightness a man gets when his baby takes his first step or his first baby shaves and makes his first sound as a man. Some words can give you a feeling that makes your heart warm. Republic is one of those words. [1]

 

Republic is just another way to say liberty. It may be sappy and old fashioned—as John Wayne was in 1960—but he was right.

 

Liberty. I like the sound of the word.

 

Boston may be the cradle of liberty, but Philadelphia is certainly its incubator. It was in that city—the largest in the thirteen colonies—that the First Continental Congress meet in Carpenter’s Hall. It was in that city—in Carpenter’s Hall—that Patrick Henry put to voice what many may have only thought when he no longer identified himself locally, but as a part of the whole: “I am no longer a Virginian. I am an American.” Two years after the First Continental Congress, the Second Congress—in that same city—declared independence from Great Britain. In a brick building that has come to be known as Independence Hall, fifty-two men debated and later ratified the document we American’s cherish to this very day—232 years later. It was in that same building, in 1787, where a new form of government was born—a constitutional republic. And it all happened in that city by the Delaware River, the city of Brotherly Love.

 

Philadelphia was also the seat of national government from 1790–1800, housed in the aptly named building next door to Independence Hall: Congress Hall.

 

All of this history within the walls of a few buildings, within a few city blocks. And this is to say nothing of the room where Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence or of Benjamin Franklin’s famous kite experiment and inventions or of the Liberty Bell and its famous crack.

 

Philadelphia is a place every patriot should see. And when you go, talk less and listen carefully. Its walls echo the distant voices of patriots past—

 

Liberty. I like the sound of the word. It means people can live free, talk free, go or come, buy or sell, be drunk or sober, however they choose. Some words give you a feeling. Liberty is one of those words that makes me tight in the throat. Some words can give you a feeling that makes your heart warm. Liberty is one of those words.

 

[1] Quoted from http://www.imdb.com/character/ch0030523/quotes.

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