The Olympia, an armored cruiser, served in eighteen-ninety two as the flag ship for Admiral Perry during the battle of Manila Bay. The other was a boat—a submarine, the Becuna, which was active during the Second World War and was only decommissioned in the 1960s. My husband went through these of course. My beloved is convinced that in a previous life he was a seafaring man – a pirate, to be exact. So any time we get near ships, he’s there. On an earlier vacation we toured Patriot’s Point in Charleston, South Carolina where, among their treasures they counted the USS Yorktown, a World War Two aircraft carrier.
Across the Delaware River from our hotel, anchored in Camden New Jersey stands the Iowa class battleship, the USS New Jersey. This ship was decommissioned in 1991, and was the most decorated vessel of its class. We both wished we’d had time to take the tour. It’s on our list for next visit.
One more ship lay in permanent anchor at Penn’s Landing, and that’s the Moshulu – a four-masted steel barque built in Scotland in 1904—one of the last steel barques to be built to the River Clyde. Today it is a restaurant with a unique atmosphere and a wonderful menu.
We also dined at the old original Book Binder’s Restaurant—an establishment that has been in operation for more than a century and is considered a Philadelphia landmark. The list of people who’ve dined there reads like a Who’s Who of Hollywood and Washington. We didn’t see anyone famous there Thursday night, but we did have a terrific dinner.
But by far the most impressive experience we had during our two days in Philadelphia was attending the Independence Day Ceremony held by the City in front of Independence Hall. How amazing, two Canadian tourists could find themselves seated just rows from the stage. We were made to feel very welcome, and even given small American flags so that we fit right in with the crowd.
There was the usual – music, speeches by the Mayor, a City Representative, and the Superintendant of the Independence National Park. Major General William Monk, III presided over a re-enlistment ceremony. But the most moving moments, I think, came when some high school students, selected as ‘best of class’ in tandem read The Declaration of Independence.
What a provocative document that was in 1776! Do you realize that? The concept of democracy was first put forth long before the United States was discovered by European explorers. Athens experimented with direct democracy it in 5th Century BC, and it was again tried in 13th century Switzerland.
But basically, the concept that “all men are created equal” was beyond cutting –edge. It was Avant Garde. To say a people had the right to end the ties of Imperialism and form their own government—this was unheard of! Everyone knew that Kings ruled by Devine right, and although the nobles in England had altered the concept of monarchy with the institution of the Magna Carta in 1215, the rule of law in 1776 in Europe was still the rule of the noble classes.
But in 1776 a group of men dared to dream of a new idea, and dared even further to see it to fruition. Your Declaration of Independence is one of the greatest documents of all time, and the creation and enacting of it among the boldest changes ever instituted by modern man.
I felt privileged indeed to be a part of paying tribute to that moment, and it was the perfect way to end our vacation.
So now I’m back home, and back at work. Oh, and you’ll all be pleased to know the people at the hotel in Philadelphia are kindly sending me, via courier, the drawer full of clothes I left behind there—at my expense, of course.