Happy Birthday, Thomas Jefferson!

Thomas Jefferson by Charles Bird King, 1836, after Gilbert Stuart, at the Smithsonian Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. Photo 2016 by Amy Cools

As I rest after completing my term papers, exploring the highlands and islands of Scotland with my dear friends, I find I have little time to write and even less time with good internet connection. So let me share some old things with you, friends, until I can write and record for O.P. again.

In remembrance of Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826) on his birthday, here are my tributes to his memory, his life, and his ideas from over the years:

To Washington DC, Virginia, and Philadelphia I Go, In Search of Thomas Jefferson

To Paris, France I Go, In Search of Revolution-Era Thomas Paine, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Thomas Jefferson

and my thrilling interview with Clay Jenkinson, Jefferson scholar, of just over two years ago

Interview with Clay Jenkinson as Thomas Jefferson

I hope you enjoy following me as I followed in the footsteps of Jefferson!

~ Ordinary Philosophy is a labor of love and ad-free, supported by patrons and readers like you. Any support you can offer will be deeply appreciated!

Happy Birthday, Amy Cassey!

Joseph and Amy Cassey historical marker, Old Town Philadelphia, 2015 Amy Cools

Amy Cassey, anti-slavery and civil rights activist, was born in New York City on August 14, 1808. Born Amy Williams to an elite family, she married a wealthy Philadelphia businessman named Joseph Cassey in 1825. This partnership was very happy and fruitful, and the Casseys used their wealth and prestige to do much good, particularly in the antislavery movement. She outlived her husband, who was twenty years her senior, and married Charles Lenox Remond, a mutual friend and co-activist of herself and Frederick Douglass (and namesake of one of his children), continuing her work until her death on August 15, 1856, just one day after her birthday.

I couldn’t find any images of Amy Cassey or her first husband, but there are many of Remond who, by the way, had particularly awesome hair.

Amy and Joseph Cassey House at 243 Delancey Street, Philadelphia, PA

Learn more about this great woman:

Amy Matilda Cassey Album – a treasure trove of poetry, drawings, and various writings by herself and many famous human rights activists of her time, from the collection of The Library Company of Philadelphia

Cassey, Amy Matilda Williams (1808-1856) – by Janine Black for Black Past

A Fragile Freedom: African American Women and Emancipation in the Antebellum City (selections) – Erica Armstrong Dunbar, Yale University Press, 2008

Cassey House – in Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia

Ordinary Philosophy and its Traveling Philosophy / History of Ideas series is a labor of love and ad-free, supported by patrons and readers like you. Please offer your support today!

Photobook: Benjamin Franklin’s Grave in Old Town Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Benjamin Franklin‘s grave in Christ Church Burial Ground at Arch and 5th Streets, Old Town Philadelphia, PA. I took this photo while on the first of my Thomas Jefferson history of ideas tours, 2015. Franklin died on this day, April 17th, in 1790 here in Philadelphia. Scroll down for more…

Ordinary Philosophy and its Traveling Philosophy / History of Ideas series is a labor of love and ad-free, supported by patrons and readers like you. Please offer your support today!

Happy Birthday, Thomas Jefferson!

Thomas Jefferson by Charles Bird King, 1836, after Gilbert Stuart, at the Smithsonian Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. Photo 2016 by Amy Cools

In remembrance of Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826) on his birthday, I’ll share my tributes to his memory, his life, and his ideas: my traveling philosophy / history of ideas series

To Washington DC, Virginia, and Philadelphia I Go, In Search of Thomas Jefferson

and

To Paris, France I Go, In Search of Revolution-Era Thomas Paine, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Thomas Jefferson

and my thrilling interview with Clay Jenkinson, Jefferson scholar, last year

Interview with Clay Jenkinson as Thomas Jefferson

I hope you enjoy following me as I follow in the footsteps of Jefferson!

Ordinary Philosophy and its Traveling Philosophy / History of Ideas series is a labor of love and ad-free, supported by patrons and readers like you. Please offer your support today!

New Podcast Episode: Frederick Douglass Havre de Grace and Philadelphia Sites

Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church, Old City Philadelphia

Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church, Old City Philadelphia

Listen to this podcast episode here or subscribe on iTunes

Third day, Tuesday March 22nd

I head north, the direction of freedom for the American slave of the antebellum south. Spoiler alert: so did Frederick Douglass! To his and all of our great benefit, he took his life and whatever fortunes he could hope to enjoy in Maryland into his own hands, and made his risky bid for freedom in September 1838 at age 20.

Douglass was a particularly clever young man, and by this time, had educated himself to an impressive degree for anyone his age, let alone one who had to get his learning on the sly while working more than full time. He had honed his skills, become more resourceful, and gained a wider circle of friends, and he counted on all of these to make this attempt more successful than the first…

… Read the original account here

Ordinary Philosophy and its Traveling Philosophy / History of Ideas series is a labor of love and ad-free, entirely supported by patrons and readers like you. Please offer your support today!

Frederick Douglass Havre de Grace and Philadelphia Sites

The Susquehanna Ferry historical marker

The Susquehanna Ferry historical marker in Havre de Grace

Third day, Tuesday March 22nd

I head north, the direction of freedom for the American slave of the antebellum south. Spoiler alert: so did Frederick Douglass! To his and all of our great benefit, he took his life and whatever fortunes he could hope to enjoy in Maryland into his own hands, and made his risky bid for freedom in September 1838 at age 20.

Douglass was a particularly clever young man, and by this time, had educated himself to an impressive degree for anyone his age, let alone one who had to get his learning largely on the sly while working more than full time. He had honed his skills, become more resourceful, and gained a wider circle of friends, and he counted on all of these to make this attempt more successful than the first. He decided that his best bet was to disguise himself as a sailor. Sailors were highly respected in seafaring Maryland; his years in the shipyards gave him easy familiarity with the terms and style of speech; and he had a sailor friend willing to lend him his sailor’s certificate. But this still was quite a gamble: he didn’t really match the description on the paper, so he had to trust the conductor would treat him with the usual respect accorded to sailors and not look too closely.

Havre de Grace, Maryland

A View of Havre de Grace, Maryland

The Susquehanna River looking northeast from Havre de Grace

The Susquehanna River looking northeast from Havre de Grace

So he headed to Philadelphia first, which would require taking the train to Havre de Grace to cross the Susquehanna River by ferry, then the train to Wilmington in slave Delaware, and then a steamboat to Philadelphia in free Pennsylvania and to some degree of safety. As you can see from the sign above (open the photo in a new tab to enlarge for ease of reading), this ferry service has a long and distinguished history.

Independence Hall, Old City Philadelphia, 2016 by Amy Cools

Independence Hall from the square, Old City Philadelphia

I continue north to Philadelphia, and instead of heading straight to the depot where Douglass would have arrived here, I save that for later because it’s father north and I don’t want to backtrack. Instead, I make my way to the Old City, where 28 years after his escape, on September 3rd 1866, Douglass gives a speech and leads a protest march. By this time, he’s already had a long distinguished career as an abolitionist and human rights activist. We’ll find out more about how he got there as this series goes on.

Douglass was appointed a delegate by the Republican convention of Rochester to the National Loyalist Convention. The Civil War was over, Abraham Lincoln was gone, and his successor President Andrew Johnson was a huge disappointment to Douglass, to the Republican party, and to all those who wanted the United States to protect the rights of Americans not yet benefiting enough from the Union victory. Radical Reconstructionists and Southern Unionists found common cause with the more pragmatic Republican Party in their opposition to Johnson’s Southern appeasement and anti-equality agenda. So, they all sent delegates to the Convention at Independence Hall in Philadelphia to speak out against his policies.

Independence Hall lawn, at the south entrance

Independence Hall from the south lawn

When Douglass arrived at the Convention, he was further disappointed: many members were perturbed, even dismayed, at the arrival of a black delegate, and feared that allowing him to speak would undermine their chances of success in a North that was still rife with racial prejudice, even if they didn’t like slavery. But Douglass pointed out that if they didn’t allow him to participate fully, the Convention would appear hypocritical and cowardly, especially given that his attendance at the convention was already reported in the papers. So he made his speech unopposed.

It turns out that Douglass also gave a speech on the State House lawn many years earlier, in August 1844, which was also reported by local papers. As we can see, Douglass was right to warn the other delegates about bad publicity if he was shunned by the Convention, since his public appearances had been newsworthy items for years. News reports and reviews of the earlier speech are now hosted on the Independence Hall website, which the lady at Independence Hall welcome center kindly directed me to, and you can read them here.

At 12th and Market, Philadelphia

At 12th and Market, Philadelphia, where the second glassy building back on the left stands on the approximate National Hall site

Back to our 1866 story: Douglass marched in parade with the Convention down Chestnut to 12th St, to the site of National Hall on Market between Twelfth and Thirteenth. It’s no longer there, and there’s no plaque marking the site. But looking at the photo above, which looks north on Market across 12th, it stood about where the second glassy building back on the left side of the street does now, according to an 1862 city atlas. This was not Douglass’ first appearance at National Hall, either. From the beginning of his first role as an abolitionist speaker, Douglass traveled widely and made huge numbers of public appearances, so I don’t even try to follow him to most of those sites. I just to try to make it to the places where he made his most influential speeches, as many as I can given I only have two weeks for this trip.

As the Convention parade made its way, a young white woman named Amanda Sears came up to Douglass. She was Thomas Auld’s granddaughter, daughter of Lucretia Auld who had always treated Douglass kindly as a young slave and who became his owner for a short time after Aaron Anthony’s death. Sears had come to hear him speak and finally meet him in person since she had become a fan of his; their meeting created great sympathy in the crowd and generated favorable publicity for the march.

Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church, Old City Philadelphia

Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church, Old City Philadelphia

Next, I head to Mother Bethel A.M.E. church, the first black church in Philadelphia also recommended to me by the lady at the Independence Hall center. First, though, I have to return to my car from 12th and Market all the way back to Arch and 3rd where I’d started, to avoid getting a parking ticket.

Mother Bethel historical sign, Old City Philadelphia

Mother Bethel historical sign, Old City Philadelphia

On my way back, after checking to see if the African American Museum on Arch at 7th was open (it isn’t), I notice a historical marker for a Quaker meeting house built on land donated by William Penn a century or so earlier, and snap a picture. A tall handsome woman with gray hair notices and exclaims ‘Oh, you’re interested in the meeting house? I give tours there!’ I say yes, but in future: I’m making note of it for a history of ideas tour on Penn I’d like to take someday (stay tuned!). But at this moment, I’m still rushing to my car to avoid that parking ticket! We continue to chat, the lady and her companion hurrying with me in sympathy, and we exchange stories of our historical interests. When hearing I’m on a Douglass tour, her companion confirms that Douglass spoke on at least one occasion at Mother Bethel. That occasion was in April 1863, when Douglass was hard at work recruiting the first black soldiers into the Union Army. I’ll be covering the story of Douglass the recruiter more fully very soon in this series.

A view at Willow and 3rd Streets, Philadelphia

Northwest corner of Willow and 3rd Streets, about where an old Philadelphia depot used to stand

Then I head north, to the site of the depot where Douglass caught the train to New York City on Willow Street at 3rd St. on Sept 3rd, 1838. In earlier drafts of his autobiographies, Douglass referred to the Philadelphia train depot as the ‘William St. depot’, but the William St depot was in New York City, where he was headed. His editors corrected this to ‘Willow St’. There’s nothing here marking the site of the old train depot at the northwest corner of these cross streets, but that’s not too surprising: in those early years of train travel, depots were often hastily constructed or repurposed buildings, none of which lasted long enough to be considered memorable later on.

So ends this relatively short day of visiting Douglass sites: I’m headed for New York City to meet my friend with whom I’m staying, and where I’ll continue my explorations tomorrow. Stay tuned!

*Listen to the podcast version here or on iTunes

Ordinary Philosophy and its Traveling Philosophy / History of Ideas series is a labor of love and is ad-free, entirely supported by patrons and readers like you. Please offer your support today!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sources and Inspiration:

Blassingame, J. (Ed.). The Frederick Douglass Papers, Series One: Speeches, Debates, and Interviews. 4 volumes, and The Frederick Douglass Papers, Series 2: Autobiographical Writings. 3 volumes. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1979-1999 (p. 504)

Douglass, Frederick. Autobiographies, with notes by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Volume compilation by Literary Classics of the United States. New York: Penguin Books, 1994.

Douglass, Frederick. The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass. Re-published 1993, Avenal, New York: Gramercy Books, Library of Freedom series.

Douglass, Frederick. My Bondage and My Freedom: 1855 Edition with a new introduction. Re-published 1969, New York: Dover Publications, Inc.

Douglass, Frederick, ed.  John R. McKivigan. The Frederick Douglass Papers: Series Two: Autobiographical Writings, Volume 3: The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, p. 504.

Foner, Philip S. The Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass, Vol. 1-4. New York: International Publishers, 1950.

Frederick Douglass‘, from Independence Hall in American Memory, companion website for book of the same name by Charlene Mires, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013

Lippincott, J. B. & Co. ‘Atlas of the City of Philadelphia, 1862, Section 4‘. Published by Samuel L. Smedley

National Hall! Fred’k Douglass will lecture before the Alumni Association of the Institute for Colored Youths…‘, originally published by the Institute for Colored Youth, Philadelphia, PA., in 1863. From WorldCat.org: The World’s Largest Library Catalog

Philadelphia History: Early Railroad Transportation‘. from UShistory.org hosted and created by Independence Hall Association.

Stauffer, John and Benjamin Soskis. The Battle Hymn of the Republic: A Biography of the Song That Marches On. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.

https://books.google.com/books?id=bIRQpD3HNSAC&pg=PA59&lpg=PA59&dq=frederick+doug

Thomas Jefferson Sites, Part 3: Philadelphia

Independence Hall, Philadelphia

Third day, April 21st, 2015

I wake up very early to beat rush hour traffic and head northeast to Philadelphia.

My husband Bryan and I visited Philadelphia several years ago and had explored the Old City, so I have a fairly clear memory of the general layout and some of the sites I’m looking for. But we hadn’t seen Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence and later the Constitution was signed, because 1) it was being renovated at the time, and the front of it was covered by scaffolding and a gigantic dropcloth printed with an image of the facade and 2) it was a weekend day during tourist season and they were mobbed by tourists, out of tickets to tour the inside by the time we got there. I had learned my lesson, and this time around, I make a beeline for the visitor’s center to get my ticket. Even on a Tuesday in April, there was an over three-hour delay between the time I get my ticket and the time I will be admitted. That’s no problem since I have plenty of exploring to do, but if you plan to go sometime, my advice is to get your ticket as far ahead of time as possible.

The President’s House Site, Old City Philadelphia

I start my wanderings with the President’s House site, where the first two Presidents of the United States, George Washington and John Adams, had lived while the White House was being built. (Adams moved in to the unfinished White House in 1800, during the last months of his presidency.) Jefferson visited this house many times during both of their administrations. The foundations exist and were excavated and studied, and now have an open-air exhibit there, which was brand-new when we were there years ago.

It’s a lovely exhibit, not only describing the house and the presidents and their families that lived there, but telling the stories of Washingtons’ slaves, left out of history until recently. More on this in a later piece.

Benjamin Franklin’s Grave, Christ Church Burial Ground, Old City Philadelphia

Next, I visit the Christ Church burial ground across from the Free Quaker Meeting House, where Jefferson’s friend and personal idol Benjamin Franklin is buried. I head first to Franklin’s tomb, where he lies with his wife and members of his family. Franklin had the virtues Jefferson admired most: he was a curious, adventurous, learned, and sociable man; a gifted politician, diplomat, storyteller, and above all, a scientist. In other words, Franklin was the embodiment of the ideal Enlightenment man. More about Franklin to come.

When I ask one of the men attending the gate where another of Jefferson’s colleagues, Dr. Benjamin Rush, is buried, he’s very glad to show me the way, exclaiming that Rush is his favorite among those notables buried here. Rush was also a great friend of Jefferson’s and frequent correspondent, and without his efforts, Jefferson and John Adams may never have resumed their friendship, which had been strained by the infighting among Washington’s administration between Adams and Federalists and Jefferson’s Republicans, and broken by their contentious presidential races.

Benjamin Rush’s Grave, Christ Church Burial Ground, Old City Philadelphia

The man who showed me the way is right: I would find Rush an excellent subject of another history series like this in his own right, as he lived a long, fascinating life. In addition to his role as a founding father of the United States, he cared deeply about important social issues and founded or served in several public service organizations. He was also curiously backward-thinking and innovative at the same time as a physician: for example, he continued to practice and promote blood-letting as a medical cure even as the medical field was doubting its efficacy and phasing it out, and had rather medieval-sounding theories about how disease is spread; yet, he was a pioneer in the study of mental disorders, describing them diseases of the mind instead of ‘spiritual’ maladies, and is often referred to as the founder of American psychiatry.

I discover that Francis Hopkinson is buried here as well. He was another good friend of Jefferson’s, a fellow signer of the Declaration of Independence and fellow member of the American Philosophical Society; he helped lead its revival after the Revolution. ‘Philosophical’, in that time, was a broader term than it is today, referring to inquiry into everything that exists and how it all works; scientific inquiry was included. Franklin put it this way: the APS was a foundation dedicated to ‘the promotion of useful knowledge’. (I prefer Franklin’s description to today’s conception of philosophy and approach it much the same way.) More on the APS shortly.

5th and Market Streets, Old City Philadelphia

Then on to the corner of 5th and Market, where Mary Houses’ boarding house stood. There’s nothing now marking the site that I could find. After the death of his wife (Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson to the rest of the world, Patty to him) in September of 1782, he was inconsolable for awhile. His friend and protege James Madison helped persuade him to go to France, where he could assist in negotiations with Britain over the Treaty of Paris. He took his oldest daughter Patsy with him. The two had grown very close after Martha’s death, and he wished her to receive some of her education in Europe. The treaty ended up being finished before the weather would allow for the journey overseas, and after a stay of a couple months or so, he returned to Monticello, then on to other government positions. He was appointed minister to France in 1784, and returned to stay at Mrs. Houses’s, with Patsy, on their way to Paris again that summer.

Statue in Honor of Religious Liberty, Old City Philadelphia

As I turn around to head to my next destination, I notice a beautiful statue in front of the National Museum of American Jewish History, across the street from where the boarding house had been. It’s entitled ‘Religious Liberty’.

There was a historic exchange between George Washington and his administration, of which Jefferson was Secretary of State, and the Jewish community of Newport, Rhode Island, which was an important moment in the new nation’s history of establishing a completely secular government which tasked itself with defending the right to complete religious liberty. (We’re still figuring out how to best go about it to this day.) Jefferson had made the establishment of religious freedom among the most important missions in his life; he directed that his authorship of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom be one of only three of his accomplishments carved on his tombstone. For a nation which had just separated themselves from the Old World, torn apart with one bloody religious conflict after another over for centuries, religious liberty was a wonderfully freeing, invigorating, humanistic social experiment.

Near the Bourse, Old City Philadelphia

Then on to a site at the east end of the Bourse, a funny name for the old commodities exchange building, now a retail, dining, and business center. (It’s so nice inside, I’m tempted to stop here for refreshment, but it’s still early and I have much to see.) Francis’s Tavern used to stand here, on Fourth Street between Market and Chestnut. Jefferson lived here for awhile while he was Vice President in the late 1790’s until the government moved to the new capital in 1800. John Adams and many other government officials stayed there as well.

I go next in search of the site where Benjamin Randolph’s house used to stand: I know it’s not there anymore but I’m hoping for a plaque. After all, it was the first place Jefferson stayed in Philadelphia; he rented rooms from Randolph, cabinet maker, in 1775 when he arrived on June 11 as a newly elected member of the Second Continental Congress.

Benjamin Franklin’s house site near Chestnut between 3rd & 4th, Old City Philadelphia

It’s somewhere between 3rd and 4th on Chestnut. But I don’t know exactly where, and I find nothing indicating where it had been. Instead, I’m drawn to a sign indicating the site of two buildings Ben Franklin owned and lived in with his family the last five years of his life is located just down an alley next to the National Liberty Museum. I take a peek. Those curved concrete structures you see among the steel outlines of the original shapes of the buildings are windows into the archaeological excavations of the sites. So interesting. I love archaeology; I wanted to be an archaeologist when I was a kid. (Like most kids of the Indiana Jones generation, I’m sure!)

Carpenter’s Hall and surrounding buildings, Old City Philadelphia

Across the street, I find Carpenter’s Hall, where the First Continental Congress met. Jefferson wasn’t a delegate to that first one in 1774, but he wrote ‘A Summary View of the Rights of British America’ that year which Washington and Adams, who attended, admired and passed around to the other delegates. It was among the reasons Jefferson was eventually asked to write the Declaration of Independence since he had already done such an excellent job on what Washington called ‘Mr. Jefferson’s Bill of Rights.’

The Hall is open to the public, so I go inside. I ask a man attending the door, and a woman working behind a counter, if either of them knows of the site I’m looking for, but they don’t. The woman helpfully goes to her computer to see if she can find anything, but no luck.

I’m glad I asked though. By way of explanation as to why the site may be lost to history, the man tells me a brief history of how the National Park service took over Independence Hall and the Old City area of Philadelphia in the 1950’s, and the shockingly careless and reckless way they went about ‘restoring’ it (by today’s standards). The old buildings were crumbling and crowded by shabby, more modern buildings, and the city quickly had much of them condemned so they could be cleared away and the character of the old city could be revealed.

Carpenter’s Hall, Old City Philadelphia

So, the man continues, the National Park Service ‘marked everything with an X’ that wasn’t immediately identifiable as having to do directly with the founding of the nation, and the wreckers went to work. Philadelphians who knew the city and its history better, however, started flooding the NPS and city officials with letters, informing them that they were knocking down important historical buildings, among them the first military building of the new nation, to the right and in front of Carpenter’s Hall (which they rebuilt from the rubble they had just made of it; you can see it in the first photo of the Hall above, to the right of the cobblestone alley) and Gilbert Stuart’s house, painter of some of the most iconic portraits of Jefferson, Washington, and other founders. OOOPS!!!

The man’s story reminds me of what I discovered in NYC in my Rose and Stanton series, that until very recently, we Americans had a distinct lack of appreciation for our historical architecture. In the restless pursuit of progress, we went about knocking our old buildings down with wild abandon, as long as someone could make a few bucks by doing so. Much of our history has been lost in this way, and in my opinion, many United States cities have been uglified as a result. Sigh. I wonder if this is part of the reason why Europeans historically have disliked and distrusted American tourists. I’m glad to say we’re much better about such things these days.

The Todd House, Old City Philadelphia

Reconstructed 18th century garden behind the Todd House, Old City Philadelphia

Then to a reconstructed 18th century garden behind the old Todd house. The garden is pretty, with lots of gorgeous tulips and trees with their new tender springtime leaves, but like the old-style gardens behind the Governor’s Palace in Williamsburg, too rigidly geometric in design for my taste.John Todd’s young widow Dolley married Jefferson’s close friend, protege, and ‘Father of the Constitution’ James Madison just a year after Todd’s death in 1793. (If it seems a little heartless to move on so quickly, well, what else could a woman do in those days? It was either be married and have social standing and financial support, or single, jobless, and unless you inherited money, penniless.) Anyway, it’s a handsome house, but just like the others.

Philosophical Hall, Home of the American Philosophical Society, Old City Philadelphia

To my amusement, a plaque I come across states more or less the same observation I’ve been making in my historical tour of this area. In 1799, a visiting British diplomat reported ‘The regularity of Philadelphia is so great, the streets are so much like each other and the houses so nearly the same size (being built of one coloured brick) that I do not think there is anything else wor
thy of remark about it.’

I suddenly notice how quickly time’s passing, and I hurry back to the Independence Hall square to queue up for my visit, since there’s a security inspection first. After I’m cleared and waiting with the tour group, I find I’m actually standing right next to my next intended destination, Philosophical Hall (one of the two halls of the American Philosophy Society), behind and to the left of Independence Hall if you’re facing it from the front.

Independence Hall, Old City Philadelphia

I’m so disappointed to find that the APS museum, which has an amazing-looking Jefferson-and-science exhibition going on right now, is closed, and will not be open again till Thursday. So, so sad! because I won’t have the chance to get back before I leave. My first big disappointment of the trip.

But anyway, I do get to go inside Independence Hall, beautifully restored. I discovered that the only original artifact here, besides the building itself and its architectural accoutrements, is the large chair on which Washington sat, presiding over the room on its dais in the center of the long wall. Here, Congress conceived of the Constitution, debated its contents, signed it, and voted it into law. Cool.

Congressional Meeting Room, Independence Hall, Old City Philadelphia

First Senate Building, site of Washington’s and Adam’s presidential swearings-in, next to Independence Hall

After wandering around Independence Hall and getting a good look at it from all sides, I find, in front and to the right, the place where Jefferson’s hero Washington (hero in integrity and military prowess, but not politically or even intellectually) was sworn in as the first President of the United States, as was Jefferson’s dear friend and despised political enemy Adams. The first sessions of the Senate and House of Reps were also held here, until the new capitol building in Washington D.C. was finished in 1800.

I leave the Independence Hall grounds and continue my tour around the corner down 5th Street, where the American Philosophical Society’s beautiful Library Hall stands (across the street from Philosophical Hall). It’s a reproduction of the original, with a grand statue of its founder presiding over its facade in a large central niche over the front entrance.

The American Philosophical Society Library, Old City Philadelphia

‘Jefferson’s Three Greatest Men’ (Locke, Newton, and Bacon), The American Philosophical Society Library

As aforementioned, the APS was founded in 1743 by America’s most-loved brainiac, Ben Franklin. Franklin was America’s native scientist extraordinaire, and spent his life conducting scientific experiments, disseminating knowledge to the public as widely as possible, participating in politics, and traveling the world. In other words, he lived out the virtues and carried out the practices of Jefferson’s designated ‘Three Greatest Men’ Francis Bacon, Sir Isaac Newton, and John Locke. Jefferson admired Bacon for his primary role in inventing the scientific process of observation, theory formulation, and experiment; Newton, for his brilliance in mathematics and logical reasoning and his radical new approach to physics; and Locke, for re-evaluating human nature and their rights and formulating a new political theory more in keeping with human dignity.

Dr. Benjamin Rush house site, Old City Philadelphia

The exhibits in the main entry hall are fascinating and beautifully laid out.

I leave Library Hall and return to where I had left Todd house earlier to hurry back for my Independence Hall tour. I find what I’m looking for: the site of the aforementioned Dr. Benjamin Rush’s house, down the street from the Todd house on Walnut, at the 3rd Street end of the block. Jefferson visited this house regularly.

I continue my tour to the site of Robert Bell’s print shop. The first edition of Thomas Paine’s ‘Common Sense’ was printed here in January of 1776. As you probably know, Paine’s pamphlet was the most famous and most eloquent exposition of the colonies’ cause for independence from Britain, and did more to popularize and gather support for it than any other publication. Jefferson was a great friend and admirer of Paine, and shared not only his political views, but many (yet not all) of Paine’s progressive religious views, probably best described as Deistic with shades of Unitarianism.

Site of Robert Bell’s print shop, which created the first printing of Tom Paine’s Common Sense, Old City Philadelphia

Declaration House (formerly Jacob Graff’s house), Old City Philadelphia

In fact, Jefferson remained a staunch supporter of Paine even after his reputation suffered and most of his friends abandoned him following his publication of his anti-clerical, unorthodox ‘The Age of Reason’. Always the champion of freethought and religious liberty, Jefferson put his money where his mouth was and put his own political career at risk by welcoming Paine as an honored visitor to the White House.

I realize I’ve been a little haphazard in my site-seeking, and should skedaddle back to re-visit Declaration House, a little museum where Jacob Graff’s house used to stand, just outside of the Old City area at 7th and Market. Jefferson lived here in 1776, where he wrote the Declaration of Independence. I had visited this site a few years ago during my visit years ago with Bryan, but this journey I’m on won’t really be complete unless I return for at least a brief visit. Graff’s actual house is no longer standing, just the house that was next to it, but I remember that the original rooms were carefully re-created. I arrive to find that the Declaration House, the museum, the old house next to it, and the grounds are closed ’till summer at least, according to the guard standing watch, due to construction around the site.

I return to Old City, to the corner of Market and 2nd near Christ Church, where John Dunlap’s print shop used to stand, which printed the first broadside of the Declaration of Independence. I can’t find a plaque or anything else to indicate exactly where it stood. (I subsequently discover there is a small, rather obscure plaque marking the site, on the building you can see in the far left of my photo: it’s to the right of the right-hand door that’s obscured by the white tile-covered structure. So hurray, I take a picture of the correct building without realizing it!)

Ale, soup, and bread at City Tavern, Old City Philadelphia

Last but not least, I return to City Tavern, where, because I can very sentimental at times, I pay way too much for a ‘Thomas Jefferson ale’ as I had when I was here years ago with Bryan, and accompanied it with some indifferent (yet welcome, since I was tired and hungry) soup and bread. Jefferson spent a lot of time in the original City Tavern, and ate a lot of his meals here, as did Adams and Franklin, among others; the one I’m sitting in is a reproduction, built very recently in 1975, but faithful enough to the original style that it’s hard to tell at a glance that it’s not an original artifact.

Then off on a happy early evening stroll across Philadelphia’s beautiful and vibrant downtown, to grab a coffee and sit down in the lovely Belle Arts public Free Library to type up my notes.It’s been a very long, fascinating day.

*Listen to the podcast version here or on iTunes.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sources and Inspiration:

American Philosophical Society website.

Benjamin Rush‘, Penn Biographies, Penn University Archives and Reference Center website.

George Washington and his Letter to the Jews of Newport‘, Touro Synagogue website.

Gilbert Stuart: The Complete Works. Website

Jacoby, Susan. Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism. New York: Owl Books, 2004.

James Madison‘, White House website.

Jefferson: Writings. Compiled by The Library of America, New York: Penguin Books.

Jefferson’s Walking Tour of Philadelphia‘. apsmuseum.org: website of the American Philosophical Society

Jenkinson, Clay. The Thomas Jefferson HourPodcast.

Meacham, Jon. Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power. New York: Random House, 2012.

Religious Liberty‘, article, History page of the National Museum of American Jewish History website.

Thompson, Mary V. “The Private Life of George Washington’s Slaves“, Frontline, PBS.org

Timeline of Jefferson’s Life‘. Monticello.org. Website of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation.

Philadelphia Free Library, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania