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Our 2018 Road Trip, Part 31: They Forged a Flock of Founding Fathers

George Washington!

Obligatory George Washington statue. We lost track of how many times his face appeared in metal on this trip.

The voluminous main floor of the National Constitution Center was interesting and educational in and of itself, but an unusual display awaited us on the second floor in the George H. W. Bush Gallery, a room in which the momentous signing of the U.S. Constitution takes on real-life proportions and surrounds visitors in history and metal.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 my wife Anne and I have taken a trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. Normally we’ll choose one major locale as our primary objective, drive that-a-way, and concentrate on exploring the vicinity for a few days before retreating.

We crafted this year’s itinerary with a different approach. Instead of choosing one city as a hub, we focused on one of the motifs that’s recurred through several of our trips: grave sites of Presidents of the United States of America. Our 2018 road trip would effectively have the format and feel of a video game side quest — collecting nine American Presidents across ten presidencies, four states, seven days, and 2000 miles…

Signers Room!

welcome to 1787 at the Pennsylvania State House, later renamed Independence Hall…

Upstairs in Signers’ Hall, 42 bronze statues — the work of Brooklyn-based StudioEIS using all available historical resources, visual as well as descriptive — capture the likenesses of the representatives present at the Constitutional Convention on the day of September 17, 1787. 39 of those men signed the document and moved the shared ideal of America to the next phase of its existence. It didn’t make everyone happy. Strictly speaking, it wasn’t supposed to. Hence the whole “amendment” structure. If everyone agreed on its contents — then or today — we wouldn’t need it in the first place. We’d all simply live in superficial hivemind bliss. For better or worse, America was never meant to be a hivemind.

Alexander Hamilton!

Mandatory Alexander Hamilton, but of course.

Benjamin Franklin!

Benjamin Franklin is among the few seated attendees.

Gouverneur Morris!

At Franklin’s side is Gouverneur Morris, head writer of the Preamble and the closing endorsement. Had it been solely up to him, slavery would have been abolished at the get-go rather than an unresolved issue tabled for the next seventy years.

James Madison!

James Madison was one of three Congressmen who later had to convince fellow officeholders that the best possible moves had been made.

William Blount!

Real estate hoarder William Blount attended on behalf of North Carolina. His land acquisitions would later make the state of Tennessee possible. You’re welcome, Dolly Parton.

Gilman & Langdon!

Hailing from New Hampshire, merchants Nicholas Gilman and John Langdon. The latter served multiple terms as its governor before as well as after the Constitutional Convention.

Non-Signers!

Lurking together are the 3 out of 42 men who refused to sign the Constitution: Elbridge Gerry (MA), best known for spawning the term “gerrymandering”; Edmund Randolph (VA) , who proposed the creation of the federal court system in Article III; and George Mason (VA), among the first proponents of a nationwide Bill of Rights who wouldn’t be satisfied for a good while.

Reassurer!

We have no idea who these gentlemen are, but we hope they were able to offer each other comfort in this trying time.

John Dickinson!

For a short while, John Dickinson had been governor of both Delaware and Pennsylvania at the same time. He was among the writers tasked with crafting the First Amendment and favored unisex language in his legal contributions wherever applicable.

Pinckney Pinckney Rutledge...

The South Carolina pro-slavery clique: Charles Pinckney, who wrote the part of Article VI forbidding a mandatory state religion but also coauthored the heinous Fugitive Slave Clause; his cousin Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, a comparative contrarian in the proceedings, who got stomped in the 1804 Presidential election by Thomas Jefferson; and John Rutledge, former governor who had perfect attendance at the Convention and successfully fought against the suggestion that only landowners should be allowed to vote.

Abraham Baldwin!

Abraham Baldwin, a would-be minister turned lawyer from Georgia, would like to have this dance.

Washington quote!

Humbling quote overhead from George Washington, because I’m told inspirational quotes are a thing blogs are supposed to do.

Past Signers’ Hall was one more room in the corner, containing aged documents of grave import to our nation’s history — drafts of declarations and so forth. Photos were not allowed, and the volunteers on duty were so talkative and insistent on not leaving us alone that I felt too self-conscious to take notes in front of them. They were very nice documents for an imperfect but generally pretty decent country that had to get its start somewhere and somehow.

To be continued!

* * * * *

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for other chapters and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email sign-up for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my TV live-tweeting and other signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]

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